News: Marine Corps’ heavy lifter hones hauling skills
Story by Lance Cpl. S.T. Stewart
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, conducted external operation training March 20 near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
The Marines employed the heavy-lift capability of the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter to give them a better understanding of the procedures involved, should this type of operation be needed during a deployment.
The squadron deploys frequently to operations in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa for assault support and transport of cargo and personnel. They constantly train to be prepared to complete their mission when duty calls.
The squadron conducts external training about twice a week, and on this particular training day, they trained recently joined pilots, said Lt. Col. Richard T. Anderson, the squadron’s commanding officer.
“The CH-53E helicopter is the only helicopter in the Department of Defense certified as a heavy-lift helicopter,” Anderson said.
As the heavy lifter in the American military arsenal, the Super Stallion is capable of hauling up to 32,000 pounds, however, while in training the Marines only lift approximately 6 to 12 thousand pounds, Anderson explained.
“Look how big this thing is,” said Gunnery Sgt. Michael J. Cuttic, a crew chief with HMH-366. “Because of its size, it takes a lot to get this thing to fly, but when it flys, it can’t be touched.”
The CH-53E can fly up to 150 MPH and a height of 10,000 feet.
Heavy lifting is the primary use of this aircraft, but it is also capable of conducting other missions, like a personnel recovery mission the squadron conducted while deployed to the Horn of Africa earlier this year.
The aircraft can also be used to carry fuel in internal tanks to refuel vehicles on the ground. The Marines of HMH-366 said they are ready to adapt to any situation.
“In some situations, we have stripped our helicopters down to get rid of as much weight as possible to compensate for the amount of weight we are lifting,” Anderson said.
The ever-changing, heavy-lift mission is not easy. There are risks to the job.
Anderson said one of the dangers associated with the squadron’s missions is the static discharge produced by the helicopter.
“The Marines on the ground hooking up the gear to be lifted have to ground the helicopter using a metal rod before they can touch the cables,” Anderson said. “If not, then they can be electrocuted from the amount of static that is produced.”
But frequent training mitigates the risk and allows the Marines to get their job done safely.
“I am extremely proud of my Marines and I think that we are very fortunate,” Anderson said. “We have a good caliber of Marines working here and good morale.”