AL ASAD, Iraq -- Landing support specialists with Helicopter Support Team (HST), Combat Logistics Battalion 1, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), traded their flight zone duties for the combat zone while engaging in damaged helicopter recovery missions in Al Anbar province.
“It is an adrenaline rush,” said Cpl. Levi M. Gubbels, 22, team leader of HST. “It is something that everyone in our (military occupational specialty) loves to do every single opportunity.”
The hand-picked, seven-member team is always on call. As soon as they hear the news of a downed helicopter, they gear up and go.
“When everything goes wrong they call us,” said Gubbels, a Baudette, Minn., native. “We get excited and by then we are all ready to go.”
According to the members of HST, they look forward to every operation, but the job isn’t for everyone. Once the Marines arrive on scene they have to quickly secure the area and the helicopter to have it lifted and transported to a safe area.
Cpl. Christopher J. Gamez, a landing support specialist with HST explained that experience teaches real world solutions for learning how to secure the wrecked aircraft. Solutions are not always covered in a classroom or book.
“It takes the breath out of you to be able to run around like that with so much speed,” said Cpl. Christopher J. Gamez, 20. “Every single time we finish hooking (the helicopter) up; we just pray to God that it works.”
The Marines describe their job as physically demanding and stressful when their carrying out helicopter-recovery missions, but they keep a positive attitude. Their motivation is no mystery to their leadership.
“It was a pleasure for me to lead them out there,” said 1st Lt. Frank L. Brown, 26, Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group officer-in-charge. “It makes me miss the times that I was an enlisted Marine.”
“(The Marines) made me feel like I had an all-star team with me when they reacted to the mission,” said Brown, a native of Davenport, Iowa. “If they aren’t doing their job, I am not doing my job.”
The team’s primary mission is to lead planes down the runway and ensure they make it to their destination, but while on recovery operations, they have successfully rescued four helicopters since arriving here in spring of 2006.
“When you strap up the helicopter your heart is already racing,” said Gamez, a San Antonio, native. “When you see that the (damaged helicopter) is now in the air, we all know that that is one more for the book.”