Reserve Marines of Landing Support Co. and Landing Support Co., Detachment 1, from Savannah, Ga. and San Juan, Puerto Rico respectively, joined with their active duty counterparts and air Marines to take advantage of a unique opportunity to train here this May.
With Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 flying the CH-53 Sea Stallion, the Marines, who are tasked with expeditiously loading and receiving necessary logistics items in overseas operations, loaded lumber and cement on the birds to fulfill their annual training requirements.
What made this training particularly different was that the goods loaded on board were not just flown around in a circle and returned as is often the case when rehearsing these activities, but were dropped off at Camp Paumalu Girl Scout Camp where a joint-service project by the Innovative Readiness Training program is serving to refurbish and improve the camp.
Not only was the necessary gear on board, but the aircraft also flew engineers of the Air National Guard from the 164, 116, and 142 Civil Engineering Squadrons to the construction site to aid in the IRT project there.
“The work with the 53s was in support of IRT Camp Paumalu. We ended up transporting 8 different loads of lumber and cement weighing between 1,500 and 4,000 pounds each via internal load,” said Sgt. Christopher Sellers, Landing Support Team Leader from Combat Logistics Regiment 45, Det 4. “Usually we load different birds. Not usually CH-53’s or Osprey, generally it’s C-130’s or C-17’s, but this gave the Marines from Puerto Rico the chance to coordinate passengers and movement of gear in ways they hadn’t before.
As with any delivery service, the task isn’t complete until the customer receives their delivery.
“The point of this was so that everybody got training, so that if we do have to deploy we have the capabilities and understanding of how to conduct operations,” said Sellers.
“The Marines on the receiving end were able to help coordinate the safe debarkation of the materials, dumping it gently out the back of the helicopter,” Sellers said. “That lumber is now going to be used to build cabins are renovate the area up at Camp Paumalu.”
The Marines also were able to undertake sling loading of the MV-22 Osprey, the Marine Corps’ tiltrotor airframe. Sling loading allows the aircraft to lift and maneuver a load via a tether from its belly. While on the surface this seems as easy as hooking the load to the tether, Ospreys produce 200 mph wind beneath their rotors into which landing support personnel must run to stabilize the load, hook the tether, and marry it up with the load’s harness.
“The helicopter support team sling load operations were to give the Marines experience under the MV-22’s. Most of the LS Marines here are from CLR 45, Det 1 in Puerto Rico and most of their training opportunities are with the National Guard,” Sellers said. “There they are only able to train with Army Blackhawk helicopters which don’t produce the same downwash. The Marines experience under the MV-22 was not only essential to their training as whole for their military occupational specialty, but also to get new experiences under the large Marine crafts. Many of them have never been under an Osprey because of their location.”
The training was twofold as well.
“It was mutual training opportunity for the Marines and the pilots. We did 20 flights lifting a 5,000 pound concrete block, doing push-ups (a simple lift off the ground and replacement) and maneuvers around the base. This gave the pilots the opportunity to understand what it’s like to maneuver in the sky with a weighted load and it was pretty windy, so how to maneuver the load into the wind as well.”
With overseas deployments fewer and further between these days, it was truly a rare chance to bring different MOS’s and services together.
“From a personal perspective, I didn’t know training could be this diverse,” said Sellers. “The point of this was so that everybody got training, so that if we do have to deploy we have the capabilities and understanding of how to conduct operations in ways that might need in the field. Coordinating with the units was huge challenge but ultimately a rewarding one once we accomplished the mission. It’s fulfilling to work alongside your fellow service members from other service branches when you don’t usually get that opportunity to do that all the time. Events like this give us insight into how other services conduct business and to understand the different languages we use to ultimately get a bigger mission done.”
The Marines will continue to train here through the month of June and the project at Camp Paumalu is scheduled throughout the summer.
Feature image: U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Frans Labranche