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Marines from 7th Marine Regiment’s Communications and Motor Transportation platoons prepare to perform nighttime external load operations with a CH-53E Super Stallion from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, during their final exercise to become a provisional Helicopter Support Team outside the Expeditionary Airfield Aug. 28.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Corey A. Blodgett

Marines become provisional Helicopter Support Teams

5 Sep 2008 | Lance Cpl. Corey A. Blodgett

Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 7 finished training 15 Marines from 7th Marine Regiment’s Communications and Motor Transportation platoons to become provisional Helicopter Support Teams with a night external load operation outside the Expeditionary Airfield Aug. 28.

The Marines performed the night operation as a final practical application after participating in classes and training for most of the month.

“These Marines have been going through this training for awhile now,” said Cpl. Greyson Escareno, the landing support chief for CLB-7 and the main instructor during the training. “I have taken both the communications and the motor transportation teams out separately to do external load lifts, but since this was their final exercise I brought both the teams out and had them basically in a competition to see who could do better.”

Helicopter Support Teams perform external load operations where Marines on the ground hook up cargo with a harness to a hovering helicopter, which then extracts the load to the necessary location.

The cargo that HST Marines load can range from food and ammunition, to artillery and Humvees, and different types of cargo require different amounts of crew, according to Lance Cpl. Mark Williams, a landing support specialist with the battalion. For the training however, the Marines used training blocks.

“The loads we are lifting are 10,000-pound cement slabs with dual-point harnesses, so that means you need more men underneath the helicopter because you have two hooks,” he explained. “You need two static men and two hook-up men automatically, instead of single point where you only need one of each.”

The hook-up men are the Marines that actually connect the cargo’s harness to the helicopter, while the static men serve as an important safety measure.

“The static man has an extremely important job,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew Shirley-Flores, a field radio operator with 7th Marines and a participant in the training. “He has to use a grounding hook to make sure the static electricity conducted by the helicopter is grounded. Otherwise it can explode and end up killing a Marine.”

A CH-53E Super Stallion from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, that flew in from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., preformed several loading and extracting flights for each of the HSTs training.

Escareno said training Marines with different occupational specialties to be on an HST is important because any unit can take advantage of their capabilities.

“The capabilities of an HST are being used quite a bit in theater,” he said. “Instead of having a convoy of vehicles with security and all the support that goes along with that, to supply units with gear, water or chow, you can just do an HST because you get the same stuff but the helicopter does all the work for you. It’s a quicker, faster and more efficient way to get materials to and from places without using convoys with all the dangers, such as IEDs. So training more Marines how to do it will broaden the capabilities of whatever unit the Marines are trained at.”

After each team performed their series of external loads, Escareno announced that the motor transportation Marines had a faster time loading the helicopter then the communication Marines, ending the informal competition, but he said no matter what both teams should be proud of their work.

“Neither team did badly. They were both pretty good actually, especially from just getting a class from myself and not actually being in this MOS (military occupational specialty),” he explained.

Escareno said, from what he’s seen, he has confidence the Marines he’s trained will be able to bring HST capabilities to any unit they serve with.


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