Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Chieu, a crew chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464, brushes snow and ice off of a CH-53 Super Stallion during a deployment for training exercise aboard Camp Dawson, West Virginia, Jan. 30, 2015. Inclement weather caused the Marines to take extra steps in preparing the helicopters for flight.

Photo by Cpl. Scott Whiting

HMH-464 battle cold weather during DFT

11 Feb 2015 | Cpl. Scott Whiting The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Marines and sailors with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 executed a deployment for training exercise aboard Camp Dawson, W. Va., recently.

The exercise, designed to increase HMH-464’s operability, also doubled as a cold-weather exercise due to the freezing conditions in West Virginia.

“The goal of this training is to work with our squadron back at (Marine Corps Air Station) New River and control two detachments at the same time,” said Gunnery Sgt. Ronald Strzalkowski, the operations chief for the DFT. “This cold weather also gives us the opportunity to work and operate in a different climate than we normally have back home.”

The Marines took extra precautions when preparing the CH-53 Super Stallions in the cold. Using preheaters to physically warm the engines before turning them on, scraping ice off the aircraft, and taking more time before takeoff were all necessary steps to ensure safety.

“The snow and ice can cause all kinds of issues with the engines on our aircrafts,” Strzalkowski said. “Safety is our number one priority, and we aren’t going to compromise that.”

Many adjustments had to be made because of the inclement 
weather during the exercise, but that didn’t stop the Marines from effectively doing their jobs. Multiple flights had to be cancelled, which the Marines just saw as another opportunity to overcome an obstacle.

“Our Marines did a great job of making sure the CH-53s were well maintained,” Strzalkowski said. “If they couldn’t fly, we made sure they were ready to fly whenever the weather cooperated.”
After spending approximately two weeks aboard Camp Dawson, the squadron flew during only three of those days. Even though it isn’t what they planned, Strzalkowski doesn’t see it as a failure.
“We adapted to the climate change here, and we successfully did everything we could,” Strzalkowski said. “The Marine Corps is all about adapting and overcoming.”

When it’s all said and done, the unorthodox training exercise was a good learning experience for the Marines of HMH-464. 
“I believe this is the best squadron in the Marine Corps,” Strzalkowski said. “These guys work hard; you’ll never hear them complain about the long hours. They understand what needs to be done, and they can all be relied on to accomplish the mission at hand.”