News: Marines familiarize themselves with external lift operations
Story by Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison
YUMA, Ariz. - Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1’s Weapons and Tactics Instructor course covers an impressive range of military exercises meant to school Marines on how to best execute operations as if they were in theater.
One operation is the external lift, which involves aircraft transporting a variety of things from one site to another.
April 5 saw Marines from Combat Logistics Regiment 27, landing support company, helicopter support team, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., hook up supplies to MV-22 Ospreys at Landing Zone Bull, part of the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range in California.
Pilots practiced lifting objects such as beams and Humvees while Marines on the ground fine-tuned their technique of gearing up the aircraft with a load.
“We’re building a standardized union on how everything is lifted,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fassnacht, the helicopter support team officer in charge for CLR-27, landing support company, and a native of Port Clinton, Ohio. “This is some of the most dangerous training you can get right here.”
Getting beneath any aircraft with the purpose of attaching a mission-essential item to it is brazen enough. With Ospreys, winds reaching up to 200 miles per hour buffeted the ground Marines, who also dealt with engine exhaust heat able to burn skin and a blinding maelstrom of dust and debris.
“It’s a blast,” said Lance Cpl. Chase Stubblefield, a CLR-27, landing support company, landing support specialist and a native of Tulsa, Okla.
Normally, the CH-53E Super Stallions are used for external lifts.
“We don’t do (external lifts) a lot,” said Capt. Justin Sing, a MAWTS-1 student and Osprey pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266, based in MCAS New River, N.C. “We’re trained to provide that lift asset.”
“Assault support is still our primary role,” added the Apple Valley, Minn., native.
External lifts are used to transport items such as food, water and supplies across theater. Lifts are also used to recover downed aircraft.
The Osprey has a max load capacity of 12,000 pounds, with the equipment lifted April 5 weighing in between 6-8,000 pounds.
“This is tactical lift for real life equipment,” said Fassnacht. “We’re here to train the pilots in their weapons and tactical training.”
While the Osprey is an unusual choice to fulfill the aircraft role in an external lift exercise, it is exemplary of the progressive nature of WTI.
“The intent for us to come here is to be tacticians in our platforms and integrate our tactics with other platforms,” said Sing.
Seamless integration of air and ground assets is key in Marine Air/Ground Task Force planning. Successful exercises like these show Marines are able to adapt and work together in situations with unfamiliar variables.