AUGUST 23, 2017, MISAWA AIR BASE, Aomori – During the training, a helicopter support team with CLB-4, Combat Logistics Regiment 3, 3rd Marine Logistic Group, would rush under one of the Marine Corps’ primary heavy-lift aircraft, a CH-53E Super Stallion, to attach a 6,500 pound CONEX box to the helicopter while the aircraft hovers above them. The aircraft would then lift the container and briefly flies around the landing zone, returns and lowers the weight to the ground, permitting the HST to disconnect the weight. The pilots and HST repeated the process numerous times for accuracy and proficiency.
“External lifts are important because it allows the Marine Air Ground Task Force commander to shape the battle space,” said Capt. Patrick X. Kelly, a CH-53E pilot assigned to HMH-462, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, currently forward deployed under the Unit Deployment Program with MAG-36, 1st MAW, based out of Okinawa, Japan. “Letting the MAGTF commander move his assets where he wants them, when he wants them there.”
Unlike other aircraft used for external lifts, such as the MV-22 Osprey which can lift external loads of up to 12,500 pounds, the CH-53E has the capability to lift approximately 36,000 pounds. This allows the Super Stallion to transport vehicles, cargo, food and other vital equipment needed to accomplish the Marine Corps mission.
“In a real-life situation, if [HMH-462] was trying to emplace artillery, such as the M777 Howitzer to the battlefield, we could sling up the artillery and take it from where it was to where they need it to be to support to the Marines on the ground.”
Kelly said external lift training couldn’t be accomplished without the support from the HST.
“The Marines with the HST are very important, and they are all professionals,” said Kelly. “Having the Marines load the rig quickly and properly on the first try is crucial for the lift and these Marines typically get it every time.”
Both units ensured they were taking the proper safety provisions to conduct the training. The crew chiefs observed the HST Marines from the aircraft while a safety observer Marine watched the Marines from the ground. The pilots cannot see beneath or behind the aircraft, which create hazards that require the safety observer, crew chiefs and pilots to communicate with one another to help prevent accidents.
“HMH’s role in the aviation community is to support the MAGTF commander and provide assault support transport of heavy equipment, combat troops and supplies, day or night, under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint or combined operations,” said Kelly.
By Lance Cpl. Andy Martinez, III Marine Expeditionary Force