MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, CA, UNITED STATES
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. - Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 played host to 86 U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen here July 13.
Two helicopters and crews with the HMH-466 “Wolfpack” took the midshipmen on an adventurous flight over Camp Pendleton before dropping them off for a hike to a firing range.
“We tried to make the flight interesting, but within safe limits,” said Sgt. Brian Georg, a Severn, Md., native who serves as a crew chief with HMH-466.
Most of the midshipmen had never been on a helicopter flight before, explained Midshipmen 2nd Class Brent Teague, a junior-year midshipman at the Naval Academy and Atlanta native.
The midshipmen are scheduled to spend a week getting hands-on experience in the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as part of their summer Professional Training of Midshipmen.
Professional Training of Midshipmen exposes midshipmen to possible career paths as a Naval or Marine Corps officer over the course of three weeks, including a week aboard a submarine, a week with naval aviation and a week aboard a Marine base.
“I think this gives them a better idea of what to expect [when flying with a Marine helicopter squadron],” said Teague, a prior-service MV-22 Osprey crew chief. “There have been a few [midshipmen] who were all about getting a Marine officer commission until this week and a few who hated the idea until they got here and experienced it first-hand.”
While some were nervous, Midshipmen 2nd Class Michelle Verbeeck, a Long Island, N.Y., native, explained that she had been looking forward to the flight.
“It was exciting,” said Verbeeck. “I like roller coasters!”
Verbeeck added that the Marine training has thus far stood out from the rest of her summer training experience.
“This is nothing like anything else we’ve done,” said Verbeeck. “We’re constantly on the move.”
Teague added that the Marine training has been more intense than the first two weeks of the summer training.
“We’ve ridden in Navy CH-60 [‘Seahawk’ helicopters] and submarines, but this is the first time we’ve had physical things to do,” said Teague.
In one day the midshipmen had already assaulted a beach on an amphibious assault vehicle and taken a ride on a helicopter. They finished the day with several miles of hiking and firing weapons like the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
Georg explained that he was impressed with the midshipmen on their first helicopter flight.
“They were organized well,” said Georg. “The flight went perfectly.”
Despite the tough week, the topsy-turvy Super Stallion ride may have been enough to convince some of the midshipmen to work towards a career as a rotary wing pilot.
“[Being a helicopter pilot] is always a possibility,” said Verbeeck, who explains that she hopes to train as a naval aviator after she graduates.
The Wolfpack’s participation in the training allowed the midshipmen to get a first-hand perspective on the world of Marine aviation while they spent the week trying Corps boots on for size.
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