Author Topic: A Navy pilot’s take: The Air Force doesn’t have a pilot crisis, it has...  (Read 4090 times)

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Offline Dimsum

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The fact that aircrew junior officers don't have any leadership experience isn't unique to the USAF.  On the Aurora fleet, until you're a Crew Commander (which isn't until your last year or so on your first operational tour, and even that's been very quick compared to "the old days"), generally you don't have any leadership role at all on squadron.

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The United States Air Force is facing a crisis, seemingly a recent one, which will define the service for decades to come.

This “Dear Boss” letter is instructive for describing exactly why so many pilots are choosing not to stay in the Air Force, and are instead leaving to go to the airlines. There is a deep lack of faith in leadership at all levels of the Air Force, but especially at the Squadron Commander and above levels, and, from within, it seems that the organization is promoting toxic managers (not leaders) who are not promoted on their merits, but instead on how well they toe the party line.

Complaints range, but highlights are; a lack of accountability, protection of the deficient leaders at all costs, overemphasis on promotion versus performance, and too much “queep” (an Air Force term for paperwork). There is no single root cause for pilots bailing out in such large numbers, and the issue contains much more nuance than simple bad leadership, but there is a glaring problem that is a significant contributor, and helps illuminate the distinct lack of Air Force leadership: In the USAF pilots are not provided the opportunity for meaningful leader development. I will explain.

First, I need to lend some context. While I am a naval aviator, I have spent as much time with the Air Force as I have the Navy. I went to Air Force pilot training, known as UPT, I spent my operational tour in the only navy unit on Andersen Air Force base, and I am even married to an Air Force Officer, which gives me a slightly more in-depth view of the flying branch, and has allowed me to juxtapose some of my experiences against those of my Air Force compatriots. In the Air Force, junior officers, majors, and even higher ranking officers are pilots and only pilots. The Air Force values tactical and technical expertise, and therefore the center of an Air Force pilot’s world until he or she, with rare exception, is put in command of a squadron honing the skill of employing their weapon system. The Navy, however, out of necessity does things very differently.

To explain, let me summarize some of my experiences as an operational junior officer.

After my third deployment, I had come home and been put into the role Search and Rescue Officer. This was my “ground job,” one of many collateral duties assigned to every pilot. As SAR-O I was responsible for writing policy, maintaining pilot currencies, tracking missions launched and lives saved, and ensuring that all of my roughly 75 rescue swimmers were receiving the right training and qualifications, were on career progression, had all of their various paperwork in-order, and that their personal lives were copacetic enough for them to continue flying.

To do all this required daily interaction with pilots, enlisted aircrew, maintenance personnel, and every other office in the squadron. While this was not my first leadership role, (on my first deployment, only a few weeks in the squadron I was put in charge of some 30 maintenance personnel) I still made many mistakes, and to keep me on track I had a senior enlisted Master Chief, and several Petty Officers. My Master Chief had been in nearly 30 years, and mentored me, kept me out of trouble, and in a few instances gave stern and needed course corrections. I carried the lessons, both my mistakes and triumphs, into every consecutive leadership role, and forward to this day.

As you can see, Navy flying squadrons are structured differently from those of the Air Force. Everything that is needed to function away from home on deployment is included within maintenance, admin, etc, because of the shipboard environment. While this system is imperfect, it allows for leader development for its pilots from day one.

In the Air Force, pilots do none of this. Leadership, like strategic thought, is not something that can be taught in a short Command and Staff course, or a few weeks of Squadron Officer’s School. Leadership is a continuous development process that requires making mistakes, and assuming increased responsibility over a long period of time, and it cannot occur by “just doing what the last guy did.”

The first time most Air Force pilots are in real leadership roles, they are usually assuming command of a squadron, where instead of simple tactical proficiency being what matters, it is now leading and managing people that is crucial, a skill they have not had time to hone in the same way they have employing their weapon system. The Air Force does not have a pilot crisis, it has a leader development crisis, one in which leaders are not enabled to succeed because they are never given the tools to do so. You can’t learn leadership by osmosis or entirely from a book, you learn it through experience.

To be fair, this answer may be unsatisfying to most Air Force personnel, because there is no easy fix, as current career tracks are well worn, and squadron composition is unlikely to change any time soon. The argument also does not address many of the cultural problems within the organization, notably that the only means to the highest levels of command is by being a pilot, which constitute a minority of personnel. It does not address the fact that expecting every leader to be Robin Olds is not a recipe for success. And it does not fix the queep.

But to begin fixing a problem, you have to be honest about the realities of the problem you face. The Navy also has its share of issues. In fact, my alma mater is one of the most fraught squadrons in the whole fleet, proving that not all leaders in the Navy are good. We also have a pilot shortage, albeit a less severe one, much of which derives from fatigue in pilots and aircraft due to significantly longer and more frequent deployments. However, at the end of the day, the fundamental mechanics and experiences that make an effective military leader can be found in the career of a Navy pilot, from day one. To build trust in leadership you have to have leaders who understand what it means to lead, not just to fly and fight.

https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/04/24/a-navy-pilots-take-the-air-force-doesnt-have-a-pilot-crisis-it-has-a-leadership-crisis/
Philip II of Macedon to Spartans (346 BC):  "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

Reply:  "If."

Offline dapaterson

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So the follow-on question becomes: Is there a leadership problem in the RCAF?  If so, are root causes the same?  And what's the solution?
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Offline SeaKingTacco

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So the follow-on question becomes: Is there a leadership problem in the RCAF?  If so, are root causes the same?  And what's the solution?

Since the RCAF is in love with USAF doctrine, methods and organizations (regardless if it makes sense for a country like Canada), I invite you to draw your own conclusions.

The USN, on the other hand (and in my own personal dealings) tends to get business done in a much more...down to earth down to earth fashion.

Offline Baz

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Since the RCAF is in love with USAF doctrine, methods and organizations (regardless if it makes sense for a country like Canada), I invite you to draw your own conclusions.

The USN, on the other hand (and in my own personal dealings) tends to get business done in a much more...down to earth down to earth fashion.

That was my experience as well, on both counts.

My personal pet peeve, which draws straight from the USAF, is calling our Maritime Assets ISR Assets instead, and then the path from that which had a Comd RCAF asking a small group of us in the back of a Sea King (Majs and Capts all) how it could better support ISR, targeting, and in effect his Air Force which revolves around one type of aircraft; the person in question didn't know or care how we supported the RCN.

Offline SeaKingTacco

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Baz,

That has been my continual experience, too.

I have been on exercises where the RCAF has attempted to remove the Sea Kings from the ASW serial, in order to haul VIPs ashore.

I see an annual effort to send Sea Kings to Ex Maple Flag in Cold Lake to do...?

The ATF concept is an absolute C2 disaster for embarked helos. When CFAWC did a site visit, they were not even aware of the NATO/USN Maritime Air Doctrine Structure. In effect, they were (are) trying to shoe horn MH and Auroras into a USAF-centric structure. The USAF does not do ASW, so there is not really a way of effectively handling that mission set. You then see absurdities at places like RIMPAC where all of the coalition MPAs and MHs are tasked/employed similarity- except Canada, who overlays a bloated national Comd structure that does not understand the mission and yet feels qualified to meddle in tactical details.

Part of this is our (12 Wing's) fault. The Wing does a terrible job of telling the RCAF about our caps/lims. When new, bright ideas are trotted out by the RCAF, the Wing tends to ignore them until it is too late, rather than try to effect them early, hoping it will just go away. A lot of the blame goes to the intellectual/doctrinal rigidity of the RCAF, which is so fighter/USAF/NORAD centric, it smothers everything else.

IMHO, of course.   ;)

Offline Infanteer

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Simple solution.  Fleet Air Arm.
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline SeaKingTacco

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Simple solution.  Fleet Air Arm.

Will never happen again. Just like the army will never get back aviation.

Offline Oldgateboatdriver

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Will never happen again. Just like the army will never get back aviation.

You would be surprised what a good war can manage to throw in the dustbins of history ... or resuscitate.  [:D



P.s.: Not that I am wishing for one, though.

Offline Infanteer

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Will never happen again. Just like the army will never get back aviation.

Never say never.  I bet you 30 years ago, people were saying we'd never have separate Army, Navy and Air Force organizations with distinctive uniforms and rank insignia!
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline George Wallace

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Will never happen again. Just like the army will never get back aviation.

But this is 2017......  >:D

(One can never know.)
[:D
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Offline daftandbarmy

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FWIW, based on a few sets of orders, and subsequent activities, I've seen recently from our Junior Officers and SNCOs, all Class A reservists, the Army is doing something right with its leadership training.

Now of we Senior Officers could only get our thumbs out :)
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Offline Baz

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The ATF concept is an absolute C2 disaster for embarked helos. When CFAWC did a site visit, they were not even aware of the NATO/USN Maritime Air Doctrine Structure. In effect, they were (are) trying to shoe horn MH and Auroras into a USAF-centric structure. The USAF does not do ASW, so there is not really a way of effectively handling that mission set. You then see absurdities at places like RIMPAC where all of the coalition MPAs and MHs are tasked/employed similarity- except Canada, who overlays a bloated national Comd structure that does not understand the mission and yet feels qualified to meddle in tactical details.

Part of this is our (12 Wing's) fault. The Wing does a terrible job of telling the RCAF about our caps/lims. When new, bright ideas are trotted out by the RCAF, the Wing tends to ignore them until it is too late, rather than try to effect them early, hoping it will just go away. A lot of the blame goes to the intellectual/doctrinal rigidity of the RCAF, which is so fighter/USAF/NORAD centric, it smothers everything else.

http://www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca/en/cf-aerospace-warfare-centre/elibrary/journal/2014-vol3-iss4-03-letters-to-the-editor.page ... was also discussed amongst parts of the Command Team.  Unfortunately, just another noise in the orchestra of problems known as 12 Wing... (well, at the time, I have no visibility anymore).

Offline Dimsum

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USAF does not do ASW, so there is not really a way of effectively handling that mission set. You then see absurdities at places like RIMPAC where all of the coalition MPAs and MHs are tasked/employed similarity- except Canada, who overlays a bloated national Comd structure that does not understand the mission and yet feels qualified to meddle in tactical details.


I wonder how the Aussies and Kiwis do it in RIMPAC, etc?  Their MPRAs are under the Air Force and from what I saw of the Aussies, they have a very USAF-like structure as well.
Philip II of Macedon to Spartans (346 BC):  "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

Reply:  "If."

Offline Baz

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I wonder how the Aussies and Kiwis do it in RIMPAC, etc?  Their MPRAs are under the Air Force and from what I saw of the Aussies, they have a very USAF-like structure as well.

I don't have experience on the West Coast outside of NORAD/NORTHCOM, so I can't ay directly.  I would expect that, given that the USN owns PACOM (for example, every Commander has been an Admiral), and the PACAF AOC being right at Hickham, I would think that it has a distinctive Navy spin...  I would also think that view of the world pervades the RIMPAC area???

MPRA's are a different beast again obviously.  For some things they rightfully belong to the ACC (think Libya overland, Syria), as part of the ISRD's laydown.  For other's, the need to be in direct support of the MCC.  This can easily be accomplished by giving the MCC dedicated ATO lines, but often the ISRD pushed back because they want to be in control, even though they often don't consider MRPA's core assets.  (By the way, ISRD's hate SCAR and Battlefield Interdiction missions, they think it is a waste of ordinance and strikers.)  It is far less often that it is appropriate to task embarked air that way, although they should be tasked as available to support the ISRD.  Strikers are different, but even then ACC's don't always understand that the MCC is going to hold back some embarked to keep his carrier from having a hole blown in the side...

When during a NATO exercise I saw an ACC task an MRPA line in the Baltic, that had plenty of friendly surface in area, as Maritime ISR with no indication if they were in Direct Support, Indirect Support, or Area Ops I realized that at least that ISRD had no clue how Maritime Warfare is conucted...

Offline Lumber

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The ATF concept is an absolute C2 disaster for embarked helos.


"D4T, de CX, we've got small fast movers closing the HVU from the disengaged side and CS has requested you take position to cover them. Break dip and proceed to that location.

CX, de D4T, are you asking us to get within small arms range of these fast attack craft?

D4T, de CX,  that is correct.

D4T, CX, de mother, concur all; D4T proceed to that location and cover the tanker.

All, de D4T, standby, this sounds dangerous, I'm just going to need to call 1 Wing in Winnipeg for permission..."

"Aboard his ship, there is nothing outside a captain's control." - Captain Sir Edward Pellew

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Offline SeaKingTacco

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Lumber, it is actually the JFACC (played by the Air Div Comd, wearing his other hat) in Winnipeg,wrt deployed ops, but you are frighteningly close to the truth....

Offline Lumber

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Lumber, it is actually the JFACC (played by the Air Div Comd, wearing his other hat) in Winnipeg,wrt deployed ops, but you are frighteningly close to the truth....

You should have seen the looks I got when I asked, "I know that our CAP has no Anti-Ship missiles, but if we were really desperate, who would I talk to about getting our CAP to close those enemy destroyers to within FBA range and strafe them with their guns, aiming to take our their radars?"
"Aboard his ship, there is nothing outside a captain's control." - Captain Sir Edward Pellew

“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

Death before dishonour! Nothing before coffee!

Offline Baz

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Lumber, it is actually the JFACC (played by the Air Div Comd, wearing his other hat) in Winnipeg,wrt deployed ops, but you are frighteningly close to the truth....

That does ignore one fact, though; 12 Wing and the RCN haven't been very good at times ensuring the Command relationship is correct.

The chain of Full Command for a HelAirDet is CDS, Comd RCAF, Comd 1 Cdn Air Div, Comd 12 Wing, Squadron Commander, Det Commander; the ship's CO is never in that Chain.  This is because the Ship CO is not an aviation expert, and is a normal thing (not just for aviation).

This is also not solely a Cdn thing, it is true in the RN, and USN, and I would hazard a guess most properly functioning Naval Air Forces; the Canadian peculiarity is that it is an Air Force Chain of Command, not Naval Air.  For instance, the full chain of Command for a Carrier Fighter Squadron is Squadron, Commander CVW (Carrier Air Wing, an embarked formation), Commander Naval Air Forces,  CNO.  When embarked the Wing is chopped over to the Commander Carrier Strike Group (but *not* the CO of the Carrier), and provides lines to and coordination with one (or more) ACC's as appropriate.

The HelAirDet should be chopped (OpCom and/or OpCon) to the Ship and/or the Task Group, and then further chopped as appropriate to coalition Command; the JFACC should normally have nothing to do with it except enabling the chop.  However, the chop should be formal; the Command relationships should be sorted then and the situation Lumber said should never happen.  That may need intervention from the next highest common Commander, which in the case of a HelAirDet would be the CDS.  But once that formal chop is made and ordered, it's the final word.  If the Commander 1 Cdn Air Div has withheld a risk level and the CDS has concurred then the Ship's CO doesn't get to change it.  It is then the *responsibility* of the Crew Commander to inform the ship and the fleet the aircraft is not authorized to do that.  If then given a formal order to do so anyway all bet's are off, but that would inherently mean the CO has disobeyed an order from the CDS; this is why you pay Commander's the big bucks.

However, I know you know all this.  The JFACC enabling a proper chop is not what has been happening more and more, which is the JFACC trying to act like an ACC with a deployed HelAirDet on a day to day basis; I personally think this is leading to bad things.  Enable them, prepare them, give them their formal restrictions, have them report  what you need to know for fleet planning (hence why we always had to send back a message everyday), and let them get on with it getting their operational direction from the naval force.

... and in all this clean up the relationship between the Ship's CO and the larger Naval Force; they also need to understand that it is not simply "part of the ship's weapon system," and that sometimes it is better to employ them at the Task Group level.  It's *not* the CO's personal helicopter...

... oh, and why does the Canadian model *continue* to perpetuate the confusion between Force Generators, and Force Employers, and all the associated dual hatting writ large???  If the JFACC inherently understood that there job was to task air forces on behalf of the JFC (ie CJOC) and not to exploit the Full Command relationship of 1 Cdn Air Div, these things might be easier.


What I really need to wrap my head around is why in any way I care anymore...


Offline Baz

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You should have seen the looks I got when I asked, "I know that our CAP has no Anti-Ship missiles, but if we were really desperate, who would I talk to about getting our CAP to close those enemy destroyers to within FBA range and strafe them with their guns, aiming to take our their radars?"

That should be easy:
- ask the Force Anti Air Warfare Coordinator what the line number in the ATO says, it may already be authorized
- if no, is it a Force CAP, ie locally tasked.  If so, contact the Carrier Strike Group Commander (and given it is locally tasked there is an assumption you are part of that CSG) and ask for retasking; if he agrees he'll tell the FAAWC to give it to you.
- if not locally tasked (which is unlikely in the Canadian context), contact the CAOC (Combined Air Operations Center; the one for the op, not the Canadian one, unless it is a Canadian op; for example for Unified Protector in Libya it was CAOC Poggio Renatico), and ask for re-task.  They'll check whether or not they are allowed to be retasked.  Although that should also be up through your Task Group and Task Force as well...

The reason for this is obvious; it may make perfect sense to you or even your ship's CO that is what they should be doing, but it is up to people that own them to determine if that is the best use for them and their capability to do so.



Offline Lumber

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That should be easy:
- ask the Force Anti Air Warfare Coordinator what the line number in the ATO says, it may already be authorized
- if no, is it a Force CAP, ie locally tasked.  If so, contact the Carrier Strike Group Commander (and given it is locally tasked there is an assumption you are part of that CSG) and ask for retasking; if he agrees he'll tell the FAAWC to give it to you.
- if not locally tasked (which is unlikely in the Canadian context), contact the CAOC (Combined Air Operations Center; the one for the op, not the Canadian one, unless it is a Canadian op; for example for Unified Protector in Libya it was CAOC Poggio Renatico), and ask for re-task.  They'll check whether or not they are allowed to be retasked.  Although that should also be up through your Task Group and Task Force as well...

The reason for this is obvious; it may make perfect sense to you or even your ship's CO that is what they should be doing, but it is up to people that own them to determine if that is the best use for them and their capability to do so.

It make sense. I have to ask these questions, because when we're taught naval warfare, we're taught from the perspective that we (meaning individual warfare directors aboard ship) have to make all recommendations and request everything form the PWCs. The PWCs otherwise just sit there and watch us get shot at. In reality, I imagine (I hope) if crap was hitting the fan, there would be a very competent fleet staff of PWCs who would make these decisions for me. I shouldn't have to "recommend" to the ASuWC that something is or isn't a hostile warship, based on ISAR/VisID from the LRPA; the LRPA saw and reported them first. Either the LRPA should just finish his report with a recommendation, or the PWC should just say "roger report, I make..."
"Aboard his ship, there is nothing outside a captain's control." - Captain Sir Edward Pellew

“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

Death before dishonour! Nothing before coffee!

Offline SeaKingTacco

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Lumber,

I feel your pain. There is a current tendency in the MH community to teach MHCCs to fight WW3 all by them selves. The trainer scenarios are often structured in such a way where the MHCC is pushed to make decisions that are way, way, way above his/her pay grade.

It is one thing to demonstrate that you understand the doctrine. IMHO, you should also, without penalty, be required to demonstrate that you know when to seek appropriate permission or make appropriate advice to higher and not fight a one helo war.

Online Loachman

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I'm just going to need to call 1 Wing in Winnipeg for permission..."
Don't drag us into this. We run the green helicopters, and are in Kingston...

Offline Infanteer

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The way I understand it is that Army TacHel is OPCOM or OPCON to the Army Brigade its supports.

Is there no relationship between the Naval HelDet and the Ship?
"Overall it appears that much of the apparent complexity of modern war stems in practice from the self-imposed complexity of modern HQs" LCol J.P. Storr

Offline Lumber

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Don't drag us into this. We run the green helicopters, and are in Kingston...

Sorry!

1 CAD in Winnipeg (not to be confused with 1 CD, also in Kingston...)
"Aboard his ship, there is nothing outside a captain's control." - Captain Sir Edward Pellew

“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower

Death before dishonour! Nothing before coffee!

Offline Baz

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The way I understand it is that Army TacHel is OPCOM or OPCON to the Army Brigade its supports.

Is there no relationship between the Naval HelDet and the Ship?

Yep, that's exactly it... buried in all that blah blah I wrote was the HelAirDet is chopped to the ship (either OPCOM or OPCON).  But the full chain of command can still retain certain stuff, like risk lelvels...