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Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, of Iwakuni, Japan, look to recover a downed helicopter in the Combat Center’s Landing Zone Sand Hill training area Sept. 13, 2012.

Photo by LCpl. D.J. Wu

America’s Squadron’ practices aircraft recovery

21 Sep 2012 | LCpl. D.J. Wu

Marines with the motor transport section of Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, participated in aircraft recovery exercises in the Combat Center's Landing Zone Sand Hill training area Sept. 13, 2012.


The Marines’ mission was to convoy to a downed helicopter, salvage it and navigate back while maintaining a tactical mindset.

“Today we went out to LZ Sand Hill and placed a downed Huey to make it look like it crashed,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Onigkeit, motor transport operations chief. “The afternoon convoy is actually going to go recover it.”

The Marines from Iwakuni have been at the Combat Center the last three weeks conducting motor transport operation exercises that they couldn't have done in their home station.

“This place is lot different than what we have back in Iwakuni,” said Lance Cpl. Brianna Price, motor transport operator, MWSS-171. “We got a lot of road time out here and we fine tuned our skills.”

The Combat Center has given the MWSS-171 Marines the opportunity to stretch out and push their vehicles and themselves to the limit. Many of the Marines here are new to the job and have not gotten the chance to drive on a desert terrain.

“This base is really giving us some good training,” said Price. “It's completely different to the strictly asphalt roads we have back in Iwakuni. Back in Japan we just ride around in circles on an even surface to get our driving hours in. But here, we get to drive on a more rugged terrain.”

The drivers put their newly refined skill to good use during the training mission. They kept their convoy skills sharp while keeping a keen eye on the road, keeping good dispersion and watching out for possible improvised explosive devices.

“They've done quite well since they've been out here,” said Onigkeit. “They're learning to adapt to the situation and they're learning from their mistakes.”

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