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U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 2 conduct external lifts in conjunction with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 302 at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 6, 2016. The Marines with CLB 2 are responsible for directing the aircraft from the ground and attaching the load with the help from the crew chief, thus giving them the capability to move heavy loads in a combat environment.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Erick Galera

HMHT-302, CLB-2 conduct external lifts

11 Jan 2016 | Lance Cpl. Erick Galera II Marine Expeditionary Force

Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Training Squadron 302 and Combat Logistics Battalion 2 conducted external lifts at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Jan. 6, 2016.

This exercise allowed student pilots to get hands-on experience maneuvering a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter while conducting external lifts. 

External lifts are an asset to Marine Air-Ground Task Force commanders as they provide the capability to move troops or heavy cargo wherever the mission calls for. The CH-53E is equipped to carry a 26,000-pound Light Armored Vehicle, 16 tons of cargo 50 miles and back, or enough Marines to lead and assault or humanitarian operation.

“Today was more about building on my fundamentals,” said 1st Lt. Michael Taylor, a student pilot with HMHT-302. “Now, I can build upon the skills that I learned, allowing me to lift different things in the fleet, whether it’s an artillery piece or bringing a water bowl to the Marines.” 

Student pilots are expected to go through classroom training to learn as much as they can about the CH-53E and all of its capabilities. That knowledge is then put into practice in real-life training exercises like these, said Taylor.

Crew chiefs are an essential part of conducting external lifts as they are responsible for directing the pilot and co-pilot while they load and unload cargo onto the CH 53E, said Lance Cpl. Jacob Burnette, a crew chief with HMHT-302.

“The responsibilities of a crew chief are to watch the load and make sure you’re not bringing it into any trees, roads or anyone else who is not part of the situation, all while you’re directing the pilots,” said Burnette.

The variables and moving pieces that come into play when conducting an exercise of this magnitude-- from the Marines on the ground attaching the cargo, to the pilots and the crew chiefs aboard the aircraft-- leave little room for error, making communication one of the key components.

One of the most important things to keep in mind for crew chiefs conducting external lifts is to stay calm, said Burnette. Everything from the voice inflection to the word choice is essential when communicating with the pilots and the Marines on the ground.

It is this collaboration between the pilots, the crew chiefs and the Marines on the ground attaching the cargo that makes an operation like this run effectively.