MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Elements of Marine Heavy Lift Helicopter Squadrons 465 and 461 teamed up to prepare for their upcoming deployments to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom during Enhanced Mojave Viper, a pre-deployment training exercise aboard the Combat Center, Dec. 9.
The two heavy lift squadrons from Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., and MCAS Miramar, Calif., respectively, combined to support ground missions and carried out extensive maintenance to keep their CH-53E Super Stallions in the air the entire time, said Maj. Jade Campbell, a CH-53E pilot with HMH-461 and a native of Carson City, Nev.
“We’ve been executing missions every day,” Campbell said. “Both squadrons have been supporting logistics elements with resupply and heavy lifting, and we’ve been carrying out both day and night raids and [casualty evacuation training] with the grunts, too.”
Campbell added the training undertaken during EMV was outstanding, and helped the two units to grow together and become more proficient.
“There’s ten helicopters split up between us and the other squadron,” he said. “We’ve all been getting along as one big happy family.
Working together was a great test of their skills, said Campbell. “Especially the maintenance guys coming through fixing everything. They’ve been doing maintenance 24 hours a day, and we’ve made every mission throughout Mojave Viper.”
Private First Class Michael Pettay, an air crewman serving with Campbell, said it was a tough, but very fruitful learning experience.
“Its been awesome, we’ve learned a lot as a crew and as a squadron,” the Tullahoma, Tenn., native said. “I can say this much, its been a pain but I know I’m not the only one who’s feeling more comfortable and confident now than when we first got here.”
Lance Cpl. Jonathan Slyman, a CH-53E mechanic with HMH-465, said he’s seen everybody gain from the experience, but he’s glad to be done with this phase.
“I have a lot more confidence in our new guys than I did when we first got here,” said the Madison, Wis., native. “We’ve all put in a lot of hours as a team, and personally, I’ll be happy when we get back to the air station and go on pre-deployment.
“The tempo we’ve worked at here definitely helped us out in the long run in terms of experience,” said Slyman. “To win a war you have to be willing to put in the time, effort and have the know-how to make it count, which these two squadrons do.”
Campbell said the next time they’ll see HM-465 will be in Afghanistan. The squadrons will deploy simultaneously later this winter, along with the infantry and logistics battalions they helped to support during EMV.