News: LS Marines support resupply operations during training exercise
Story by Pfc. Michael Ito
SAN DIEGO -- Landing support Marines with LS Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group facilitated Helicopter Support Team training on Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Feb. 17. V-22 Ospreys approached the landing pad, where they slowed to a hover over a 1,500-pound cement block representing a resupply load. The simulated load was then attached by the landing support team, and the aircraft lifted the block to circle the landing zone and replace it back to its original position.
According to Cpl. Jon Thornton, HST commander, LS Company, CLR-17, 1st MLG, this training is used to prepare both the flight crews and support crews for the vital resupply operations they will encounter during missions.
"Training exercises like these seem easy to Marines that have the experience," says Thornton, 22, Lake Havasu, Ariz. "That's why we do the training. So everyone (logistics crews and pilots) feels just as comfortable."
The resupply process consists of the aircraft flying into position over the gear to be picked up. This is made possible by the Osprey's hovering ability, dropping a tow cable to a waiting landing support team who uses a static wand to diffuse the electricity generated by the aircraft. The landing support team then hooks the load to the cable followed by the aircraft lifting the resupply load and delivering it to the location of the supported unit.
As simple as it sounds, says Cpl. Korie Hinson, landing support specialist, LS Company, CLR-17, 1st MLG, there are numerous intricacies that complicate the process.
One of those intricacies is the Ospreys ability to shift its wings into a vertical position to allow for hovering. This is the feature that enables this aircraft to perform external resupplies, but it also creates a downdraft that can reach speeds in excess of 125 miles per hour. This is almost equivalent to performing the task in a category 3 hurricane, explains Thornton.
"Among other things, the plane generates an electric charge that is a danger to the supply teams," says Hinson, 22, Cocina, Calif. “We have a [Marine] on the team, the 'Static Man', whose specific mission is to negate that danger."
A typical landing support resupply team consists of five Marines: Two signal Marines, one closer to the aircraft and one further from the aircraft to ensure commands can be seen from the air. These Marines relay communications to the pilots and crew chiefs. The rest of the team is located underneath the aircraft and consists of the static man, a Marine who physically connects the load to the aircraft, and a safety non commissioned officer to supervise the process.
Members of LS Company are trained to perform any task on the team. Pfc. Cale Smith, landing support specialist, LS Company, CLR-17, 1st MLG, graduated from his military occupational specialty school in Dec. 2010 and the HST training on Feb. 17 was his first practical application of the skills he learned.
"In the school house, we learned the theories behind what we do, but we didn't get a whole lot of opportunity to practice what we learned," said Smith, 24, Picayune, Miss. "Training exercises like this are great for people like me because I’m learning to anticipate the movements of the more experienced guys and seeing the way they do things really helps me to learn my job."
Cpl. Travis McCrea, landing support specialist, LS Company, CLR-17, 1st MLG, says that although exercises like [the training on Feb. 17] seem routine to NCOs and senior Marines, they are vital for the junior Marines to grasp the fundamentals of the process.
"We have to remember, also, that these exercises are not just for our team, but for the pilots as well. It's good for us to practice with so many different [aircraft], that way, our guys can be ready for anything," said McCrea, 23, Livermore, Calif.
After each pick-up that the team performs, they briefly come together to discuss any successes or areas that may need improvement before the next mission. In this way, says Hinson, the team can develop together and become tactically proficient.
Smith describes the HST training as the most exciting portion of his job. "It is essential that he invest himself in these types of things," says Thornton. "Because in the fight, it isn't like it is at the school house. Here he can develop a realistic timeline and the adaptability to become a part of the team and accomplish the mission."