CAMP BASTION,Afghanistan --
The CH-53D Sea Stallion has been serving the Marine Corps since the Vietnam War. Today, Marines still rely on this gray, school bus-sized helicopter.
One of the last squadrons to use them, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 began flying the Sea Stallion in January 1969. In Afghanistan, the squadron flies these aircraft with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).
“It is a good aircraft that has performed very well,” said Lt. Col. Mark Revor, the commanding officer of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363.
“Our mission out here is assault support,” added Revor, from Apple Valley, Minn. “Our aircraft support the movement of equipment, cargo and combat troops throughout the battlefield.”
Many of the CH-53D Sea Stallions flying Afghanistan today also flew in Vietnam, said Master Sgt. Jason Vernam. Vernam, from Stafford, Va., said he has 15 years experience in the CH-53D Sea Stallion community and is currently serving as an advisor for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward)’s maintenance operations.
“There is nothing that out flies it,” said Gunnery Sgt. Travis Riddick, the squadron’s quality assurance chief, and a CH-53D Sea Stallion crew chief. “For everything the Marine Corps has put into this helicopter, we have gotten ten times out of it.”
The Sea Stallion serves as a rotary-wing workhorse for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). The Wing is the aviation combat element for the southwestern regional command of the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
“As a conventional helicopter, its mission is well suited for this environment,” said Revor. “The short leg flights to lots of [forward operating bases] carrying a fair amount of cargo is no problem with the engines on this thing.
“It is still a 40-year-old airframe though, and I have had a lot of good memories flying it,” said Revor.
The Marine Corps is phasing out the aging CH-53D platform. Some Sea Stallion squadrons will begin flying the newer, more powerful CH-53E Super Stallion, while others will transfer to the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft.
At the end of their deployment to Afghanistan Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 will leave their Sea Stallions behind and transition to the MV-22B Osprey becoming Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363.
“Knowing this is our last deployment with our aircraft, and as a squadron, gives it a historical perspective,” said Revor. “We are working hard regardless if it is the first time or the last time we fly this aircraft.”