MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, North Carolina -- Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 honed their aerial refueling capabilities off the coast of North Carolina Oct. 8.
The Marines of HMH-366, Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 and Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 252 coordinated the training to increase proficiency.
According to Capt. Brent M. Schiffer, a naval aviator with the HMH-366, aerial refueling is one of the more frequent training missions conducted by pilots and aircrew because of its necessity to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s capabilities.
“The CH-53E Super Stallion is a versatile aircraft,” said Schiffer, a mission commander for the flight. “These aircraft expand the expeditionary capabilities of the Marine Corps aviation combat element.”
Super Stallion’s provide 2nd MAW with the ability to transport up to 24 troops into or out of combat, carry supplies, complete aerial deliveries and provide long-range raid capabilities for combat Marines.
“Aerial refueling is a critical part of each mission,” said Schiffer, a native of Saint Augustine, Fla. “Staying proficient in this skill is essential to the readiness of our squadron.”
During the training, the Super Stallion pilots followed behind a KC-130J Super Hercules from VMGR- 252. Schiffer, through precise maneuvering, connected the helicopter to a hose extending from the back of the Super Hercules.
“One of the most difficult parts of a joint mission is coordinating the airborne meet up,” said Schiffer.
Throughout the training, each of the pilots maintained constant communication with the other aircraft taking part.
“What is beautiful about Marine Corps aviation is that everything is standardized,” said Schiffer. “Every squadron will conduct a mission the exact same way, which makes the transition seamless when deployed.”
In order for pilots to concentrate on connecting during a refuel, they trust most of their situational awareness to the enlisted crew members in the back of the aircraft.
Riding along with the pilots were two enlisted Marines, an aerial observer and a crew chief.
“During a mission this specific, our job as the crew is to support the pilots,” said Cpl. Cody James, a crew chief with the squadron.
Throughout the flight James and Staff Sgt. Donald M. Lindsey, the aerial observer for the flight, both with HMH-366, maintained constant surveillance on the position of the aircraft in flight.
“The training went very smoothly,” said James, a native of Wasilla, Alaska. “The pilots were able to practice their skills and gain valuable experience.”