HMH-366 refines combat efficiency, lights up night sky

II Marine Expeditionary Force
Story by Lance Cpl. J. R. Heins

Date: 11.21.2013
Posted: 11.21.2013 08:15
News ID: 117137
HMH-366 refines combat efficiency, lights up night sky

CHERRY POINT, N.C. - Pilots and crew members from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 conducted a night fire exercise off the coast of Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic Nov. 14, aiming to sharpen their combat effectiveness.<br /> <br /> Firing from a CH-53E Super Stallion, the Marines employed Browning M2 .50-caliber machine guns while maintaining communication between pilots and crew. The combination of firepower and constant communication between pilots and crew makes the aircraft a potent force in support of real-world operations.<br /> <br /> During live fire exercises, communication between gunners and pilots is key, said Capt. Tyson Metlen, a CH-53 pilot with HMH-366. <br /> <br /> “Maintaining good communication and keeping the aircraft stable are essential,” said Metlen. “[We] let the crew know our movement so they can adjust their fire and prepare for a maneuver.”<br /> <br /> Metlen, who has been with HMH-366 for nearly a year, has twice piloted night fire exercises. The training helps pilot and crew maximize their combat prowess, he said.<br /> <br /> “Any time [we’re] going into a landing zone, or taking enemy fire, we can be used for defensive measures such as suppressing the enemy,” said Metlen.<br /> <br /> Firing accurately on a target from a moving helicopter is challenging at best. Gunners rely on their pilots to maintain a steady, consistent flight pattern to help provide accurate air-to-ground fire, according to Sgt. Timothy Gayson, a crew chief and aerial gunner with HMH-366.<br /> <br /> “You need to be able to tell the pilots how you need the aircraft to be maneuvered,” said Gayson. “That communication [gives the gunners] more time and better angles to put rounds on the target.”<br /> <br /> Gayson, who has deployed twice to Afghanistan, attended the Weapons and Tactics Instructor course in Yuma, Ariz., to train as an aerial gunner instructor. <br /> <br /> “There is a big difference between firing a .50-cal out of the aircraft and firing from the ground,” said Gayson. “[Aircraft mounted guns] shoot and reload faster, maneuver quicker, and are more accurate from the lack of recoil.”<br /> <br /> Because of the pace of real world operations, live fire exercises help prepare pilots and gunners physically and mentally to support Marines while deployed combat environments. <br /> <br /> In combat everything happens so fast, and with the boost of adrenaline anyone can get tunnel vision, said Gayson. <br /> <br /> “So the training we conduct here, where we practice how to lead, track and follow targets helps with avoiding tunnel vision and judging distance when we’re out in Afghanistan,” said Gayson.