MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Training Squadron 302 and Combat Logistics Battalion 6 participated in a dual-point, external lift training exercise at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 5, 2015.
Two student pilots flew under the direction of Maj. Matt Weaver, a CH-53E Super Stallion instructor pilot with HMHT-302, to complete basic pilot certification. Landing support specialists with CLB-6 worked in helicopter support teams to support ground operations.
“Today’s exercise was a training flight to introduce two new co-pilots to the [CH-53E] and introduce them to external operations,” Weaver said.
Student pilots are required to perform external lifts twice throughout their training with the squadron, one daytime and one nighttime operation.
“The most important part of the process is ascertaining whether or not these guys have the technical skill and are able to absorb all the information they’re going to need to absorb both here and going forward into the fleet,” Weaver said.
The squadron routinely teams up with CLB units to perform externals, which gives both units an opportunity to hone their skills and strengthen their readiness.
“It’s not uncommon for our unit to be tasked out with multiple HSTs in one week,” said Cpl. Lacy E. Porter, the helicopter support team leader. “It’s important that we take part in these exercises because we are getting hands-on experience and assisting with training new pilots and helping them earn their certifications.”
Each student pilot performed approximately five lifts of an 8,500 pound beam.
Sergeant James R. Holmes, the crew chief onboard the helicopter, said external operations are critical to the success of Marine Corps missions because it provides a fast, effective way to move personnel, cargo and heavy equipment between points.
“It’s the only helicopter that can lift its own weight, no other aircraft can do that,” Holmes said. “We can lift about 36,000 pounds and I believe that’s a record for at least the U.S. military.”
Weaver said the CH-53E brings increased logistical capabilities and flexibility to the ground combat element, which allows the ground units to be tactically and operationally bold knowing they’re able to be resupplied in a variety of conditions.
“The most challenging external I’ve done was definitely Afghanistan,” Weaver said. “Hot conditions, very degraded visual environment, at nighttime trying to drop off critical supplies in really the worst conditions you could probably imagine. But that’s what we train for. We train for the worst-case scenario so we can get out there and do it.”