MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The sun is high in the sky over the open area of the Camp Lejeune landing zone as a group of leathernecks patiently waits on the ground. A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter flies into view, and the landing support specialists jump into action.
One of the specialists communicates with the helicopter crew through the use of hand signals while the other Marines run over to an 8,000-pound weight and prepare to connect it to the CH-53E, as it begins to hover just a few feet above them.
The devil dogs are bombarded with dirt and water that swirls in the air in heavy gusts created from the helicopter’s rotors, complicating their efforts to connect the weight to the CH-53E.
With the weight finally secured, the helicopter takes off from its position above the Marines and circles the landing zone. After it completes a full 360-degree turn around the landing zone, the CH-53E returns to drop off the weight. Afterward, it circles back to start the process all over again.
The process was part of external lift exercises conducted by Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366, in cooperation with landing support specialists from Camp Lejeune’s 2nd platoon, Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 27, aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Jan. 28.
The exercises were conducted with the use of a Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point-based CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter.
According to Lt. Col. James F. Harp, HMH-366’s commanding officer, the training was successful considering his squadron’s mission.
“The exercise went very well,” Harp said. “Heavy lifting is really our bread and butter. It is important for us to train as often as possible, so our Marines do not lose their talent.”
Staff Sgt. Chris S. Garrison, a crew chief and flight line chief with HMH-366, said the training does not just address skill-proficiency.
“We do this type of training anywhere from 5-10 times a month,” Garrison said. “In addition to proficiency, we also perform these exercises to train new Marines and to create combat-ready crews.”
According to Harp, the CH-53E is capable of lifting and carrying multiple combat essential weapons and vehicles.
“This helicopter can carry up to 36,000 pounds,” Harp added. “We can lift everything from artillery weapons to humvees.”
Garrison said there is some potential danger involved in landing support.
“The Marines on the ground have to use a special pole to grab the connectors because of the electrical static created by the helicopter rotors,” Harp said. “The pole grounds the electricity so it does not shock the Marines.”
Garrison said because of the nature of their job it is important to train in all types of conditions, so the Marines in the air and on the ground are prepared for whatever they will face when it comes time for them to be called on.
“We train during the day and night,” Harp said. “It is important to always be combat-ready.”