MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Ancient Rome was not built in a day, but perhaps it could have been if there were Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Training Squadron 302 around to do the heavy lifting.
For the Marine Corps, transportation of resources is made expedient thanks to the 16-ton CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter’s capability to carry its own weight. HMHT-302 supported Marines with 2nd Transportation Support Battalion in multiple external lift training exercises at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 26, 2015.
A CH-53E with a crew of six departed Marine Corps Air Station New River with a heavy-duty pintle hook fastened within the cargo hold. They made their way to Landing Zone Albatross where Marines with 2nd TSB were waiting.
“Wherever we go, this is our job,” said Cpl. Casey Caldwell, a landing support specialist with 2nd TSB. “We load [the high beam] so [the CH-53E crew] can learn how to fly with a load under their bird.”
Caldwell explained the importance of communication between the ground helicopter support team and the aircraft crew. It was the ground team’s job to mark the ground with a “crow’s foot” of handheld chemical lights to signal clearance for landing.
Pilots kept the CH-53E steadily hovering above as crew chiefs communicated with them and the Marines on the ground below.
Teamwork was crucial among the group to securely and safely attach the 8,500-pound steel beam to the pintle hook. The “hook-up” man secures the load to the aircraft’s hook, the “static man” uses a static wand to ground electricity stored by the hook, and a “safety man” observes the operation and keeps eyes on anything the other two Marines cannot. Through it all, heavy winds produced by the aircraft’s seven rotor blades sent waves of dirt that repeatedly slammed the team, yet did not stop them from completing their objective.
“We keep everything safe so that it goes well,” said Sgt. Robert Ellis, a crew chief with HMHT-302. "[These lifts] are something we tend to do a lot while we are deployed, so staying proficient definitely helps.”
After approximately 20 lifts that allowed each Marine to practice, the CH-53E let down the steel beam one last time for the day and proceeded to return to the air station.
“It’s good to train like this so that if we have to set up a real-world helicopter support team, it goes as safely as possible,” said Caldwell.