News: Hammerheads to support Twentynine Palms exercise
Story by Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 is scheduled to deploy to Marine Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., to support Integrated Training Exercise 5-13, from mid-July to mid-August.
Five of the squadron’s CH-53E Super Stallions and about 130 Marines and Sailors will participate alongside Marine Aircraft Group 24 based in Hawaii. HMH-366 will provide heavy lift and assault support capabilities in support of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force training event. Many participating units are preparing for subsequent deployments to Afghanistan.
HMH-366 is not preparing for Afghanistan, but the experience will benefit the squadron’s mission readiness and ability to tackle missions in a variety of expeditionary environments.
“The cross-country flight out there gives the air crews a chance to work outside of the local eastern North Carolina area that we normally work in,” said Capt. Tyler Wright, the officer in charge of the airframes shop. “It will increase our comfort level with landing in uncomfortable places. Out west, there are a lot of mountains and desert, so it gives the pilots and aircrew a chance to fly through different terrain and practice open desert landings.”
The squadron’s involvement will give other units the opportunity to learn how heavy helicopters are best used on the battlefield.
“We’ll be supporting ground units preparing to go out on deployments to Afghanistan so it gives them an opportunity to operate in and around our aircraft,” said Wright. “It gives them a sense of what our capabilities are and how they can request our support in country to positively affect their own missions.”
Twentynine Palms is an isolated base located in the Mojave Desert. It is the Marine Corps’ primary desert warfare training center. As such, it provides a realistic, austere environment where the maintenance Marines can practice their profession.
“It will definitely prepare you for any overseas deployments or detachments that you’re going to go on,” said Cpl. Blake Allan Moore, an airframes mechanic with the squadron. “It gets you used to being out of the normal working and living conditions so you can maximize your efficiency outside of the United States.”