CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – The blades of a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter hum in the background as the Marines strain to hear one another. A Marine helicopter pilot and landing specialist are communicating their plans over the roar. Although they have different tasks ahead, they both plan to benefit from the valuable training.
Marines and sailors with Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted a helicopter support team training operation aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., Sept. 17, 2013. The seven-man team was responsible for the safe and timely external lift of cargo under two CH-46 Sea Knights.
The landing support specialists were there to facilitate the qualifications of helicopter pilots from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364. Both units shared the time to prepare themselves for future operations by repeatedly conducting aerial lifts of cargo into the night.
“The purpose of today’s training is not so much for us, we know what we do and we do it well, but it’s for the [helicopter] squadrons to get their annual training completed,” said Sgt. Christopher Jones, a landing support specialist with LS Company, CLR-17. “That’s normally what we do most the time when we do HSTs stateside.”
During the HST training, the Marines attached a cargo net of oversized tires under the helicopters to simulate the equivalent load of a common aerial resupply.
The team consists of a HST commander, safety non-commissioned officer in charge, inside and outside directors, a hookup, static man and corpsman. Each has a specific role that ensures the safety and completion of the operation.
Even though the training was geared towards the pilots, the LS Marines were able to gain some valuable experience under the belly of the helicopter.
“This is my first time doing a HST in the fleet,” said Private 1st Class John Schvab, a landing support specialist with LS Company. “I’m really excited to do it. I’m expecting our team to get in there as quick as possible and get it executed as safely as possible,” added the Troy, Mo., native.
The more experienced Marines have recently gained a higher level of responsibility as the structure of an HST within their company has changed. The operation was a chance to test their ability.
“It used to be that a staff NCO or officer would come out as the HST supervisor and you would still have a sergeant like myself as the HST commander,” said Jones, a native of Laramie, Wyo. “We took a class at LS Company, HST Commanders Course, to help eliminate [the need for a supervisor]. Once you pass the course, you are able to take HSTs out as a sergeant. Further down the road, the sergeants will be able to kick the class to corporals and be able to go back to where corporals will be able to take over the HST.”
It may have been getting dark and late into the evening, but the Marines were still smiling. It was a thrill for them to be out doing what they love, no matter what time of day it was.
“I love doing HSTs, it’s my favorite part of the job,” said Jones. “In a nutshell we are the moving company of the Marine Corps; ships, trains, planes, the whole nine yards. And this is the best part of it. [When] you’re underneath the bird, it’s just kind of a rush and it is probably one of the things that keeps me loving the job.”