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Marines with Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, prepare to transport an M777 Howitzer during a Helicopter Support Team operation, supporting Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-14, near Yuma, Ariz., Oct. 5, 2013. An HST allows the rapid deployment of weapons systems, equipment and supplies across long distances through rotary wing aircraft.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez

HSTs bring the heavy guns during WTI

17 Oct 2013 | Lance Cpl. Shaltiel Dominguez

YUMA, Ariz. – Helicopter Support Teams with Landing Support Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 17, 1st Marine Logistics Group, displayed their capabilities, by rigging ammunition, weapon systems and other supplies to CH-53E Super Stallions in support of Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 1-14 near Yuma, Ariz., Oct. 5, 2013.

The WTI course is a biannual, graduate-level Marine aviation instructor training course designed to provide pilots with training on aviation weapons systems and qualify them as WTIs. Once certified, the Marines return to their units to pass on their knowledge.

An HST is a team of landing support specialists that manage the activities at a landing zone and attach equipment and supplies to rotary-wing aircraft for transport. Throughout WTI 1-14, the HSTs were responsible for attaching loads to the aircraft, in order to assist in the pilots’ training.

“It’s just a rapid way to transport any class of supply, whether that be ammunition, food, water or artillery equipment,” said 1st Lt. Nick Boling, platoon commander, LS Co., CLR-17, 1st MLG. “It’s a rapid way to deploy our fighting capabilities to long distances.”

In addition, the HSTs were essential in providing ground units with training equipment and resources throughout the course. For example, they supported Marines with Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, by rigging three M777 Howitzers for a mock firing drill.

To sustain their high operational tempo, each HST consists of at least eight Marines: Two experienced noncommissioned officers to ensure the safety of the Marines under the helicopters, several Marines attaching the equipment, one Marine grounding the static discharge from the helicopter and two Marines guiding the pilots onto the loads.

“It’s a learning experience for the younger Marines, and it’s good to get practice lifting different equipment,” said Boling, a native of Columbus, Ohio.

The NCOs, however, have experience conducting HST operations. For example, Cpl. Travis E. Nemeth, a landing support specialist with LS Co., CLR-17, used the knowledge he obtained while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom to teach his Marines how to properly transport loads, maintain proper safety and security and conduct other landing support operations.

“We did this in Afghanistan on actual firebase missions in support of the infantry, said Nemeth, a native of Prescott, Ariz. “With one of the [howitzers], we deliver 9,300 pounds of firepower to be exact. We’ve conducted operations like this in the battlefield and it’s definitely good training for everyone involved.”

“This is my first WTI and the first time I’ve actually lifted a M777 howitzer under a [helicopter],” said Private First Class Jake Ziebell, a landing support specialist with LS Co., CLR-17. “[My NCOs taught] me to make sure that we take our time.”

Landing support Marines continue to provide services and supplies, not only to the pilots and ground units participating in WTI 1-14, but also to the rest of the Marine Corps’ expeditionary units, extending their capabilities and allowing them to accomplish the mission no matter where it might be.



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