News: Predeployment training brings aircraft, ground element together
Story by Cpl. Christopher Johns
BRIDGEPORT, Calif. – Pilots and crews with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 161 “Greyhawks” transported more than 40 Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 15 to Bryant Field Airport in Bridgeport, Calif., Aug. 20.
The squadron supported the battalion’s movement from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., to the airport for a mountain training exercise. The flight doubled as a familiarization flight for both parties as they are slated to work together during their upcoming deployment with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“[Flying] gets them a little more comfortable with us and working in and around the aircraft,” said Capt. Michael Thesing, an MV-22B Osprey pilot with the Greyhawks and a Sugar Land, Texas, native. “We don’t usually have 21 Marines in the back to replicate flying with weights like that, so it’s excellent training for us. For them it’s a movement from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and improves morale a little bit.”
This relationship, built from working together, could increase logistic Marines’ trust in the crew’s and pilots’ abilities, explained Thesing.
“The earlier we get that relationship established, the better we’re going to work together as a team,” said Thesing. “When they come to jump on our [Osprey], it’s pitch black outside and they can’t see their hand in front of their face, [but] they know that we’re going to get them back home safely again.”
Part of building this relationship requires ground Marines to be familiar with the aircraft and be able to load onto aircraft as rotary blades spin overhead – an intimidating task, regardless of the amount of light.
The responsibility of loading Marines into the aircraft falls on the crew chiefs. They ensure everyone is strapped in and accounted for before take off, and that weight is evenly distributed as to not disturb the flight.
“We do movements like this often,” said Lance Cpl. Matt Coats, a crew chief with the Greyhawks and a San Antonio native. “The back of the aircraft is our domain. We ensure the [other Marines] get on and off safely and in a timely manner. We also make calls for the pilots, let them know how much clearance they have while flying or landing, and if something might be unsafe.”
At the completion of the flight, the Greyhawks returned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., where they are slated to continue their own training for the future deployment.
More joint training is slated for the two units– each flight building familiarity and trust to ensure what Thesing calls: “a big, happy 15th MEU family.”