Helicopter Support Team facilitates artillery retrograde

8 Aug 2012 | Cpl. Mark Stroud 1st Marine Logistics Group

A Helicopter Support Team with Landing Support Platoon, Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 4, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), retrograded three M777 Howitzers from Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge, Aug. 6

The HST worked with 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, and Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, 3rd Marine Air Wing (Fwd), to prepare the artillery pieces for aerial lift and remove them from a landing zone near the FOB.

"My team's role was the rigging and hooking of the load to the helicopter," said Staff Sgt. Steven Sullivan, platoon sergeant, LS Plt., Spt. Co., CLB-4. "We have been doing HST missions the entire deployment...we were pretty much the experts out here."

The CLB-4 Marines worked with the supported units to make sure that all contingencies were covered during the planning process.

"Originally, they weren't going to be moved up to that LZ, they were going to be set up on the road," said Sullivan. "Overall, I spent about two weeks coordinating because of all the different things we had to check."

A group of LS Platoon Marines who were already stations at FOB Zeebrugge helped plan for the mission by conducting site surveys of possible landing zones around the FOB. Additionally, they inspected the lift cables and cable extenders prior to the HST lift, according to Cpl. Steven Nieskes, HST member, LS Plt., Spt. Co., CLB-4.

"The main thing you have to watch when you are doing this lift are the traversing wheels on the side of the artillery piece," said Sullivan. "The chains can catch during the lift if you are not watching."

Sullivan also said a big threat during the lifts is electric shock. The friction between the rotors and the air can build up to 200,000 volts of electricity.

"It's just like rubbing your feet on the carpet and walking up and shocking someone, except this will shock them a lot more," said Sullivan.

The team takes precautions to ensure that the helicopter is properly grounded to prevent injury to those working beneath it.

"A Marine [uses] a static rod and grounding rod," said Sullivan. "It is one [person's] job to make sure the aircraft is grounded out before anyone touches it."

The CLB-4 Marines had ample experience to draw from when planning and executing the HST mission.

"We have been training for this kind of stuff the whole pre-deployment period, so I had total confidence in [my team] being able to accomplish the mission," said Sullivan.

The Marines further solidified their platoon sergeant's confidence when they pulled off the HST mission with a hitch, according to Sullivan.

"Everything went quickly and efficiently," said Nieskes. "We trained with [M777 Howitzers] before at [Enhanced Mojave Viper]. We came out here and executed the same mission as part of a real-world operation and everything went smoothly."

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1st Marine Logistics Group