AL ASAD, Iraq -- Dust kicked up in the afternoon sun, as two CH-53E Super Stallions lowered onto the sand-covered tarmac, setting a record for the Wolfpacks.
Their flights reached a goal of 60,000 Class A mishap-free hours of flight for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, here Feb. 18.
"The primary mission of heavy helicopter squadrons is the movement of heavy supplies and equipment," said Lt. Col. John H. Celigoy, commanding officer, HMH-466. "The secondary mission is the moving of personnel. We can either move supplies internally or externally."
According to the Bellvue, Wash., native, more than 22 years have passed since the squadron was commissioned in November 1984, and it has never had a Class A mishap.
"There is a Class A mishap, where an aircraft is destroyed or personnel are killed," said Celigoy. "There are Class B mishaps, where there is damage to the aircraft in excess of $200,000. A Class C mishap is $20,000 to $200,000 damage to the aircraft."
However, the feat of 60,000 mishap-free hours wasn't the only record broken that afternoon.
"The squadron has flown 60,000 hours total in its history," said Celigoy.
"Since February 2004, we have flown 10,000 hours in support of (Operation Iraqi Freedom). We've flown a sixth of our hours in the last two years."
According to Lance Cpl. James R. Terwilligar, mechanic, HMH-466, every job performed at the squadron goes into keeping the safety standard.
"Good maintenance and good training from the senior guys has helped us keep this safety record," said the Tilton, N.H., native. "Since the day we checked in, we were told that we were the best squadron and we have the numbers to back it up, so we continue to work towards that goal."
Although the squadron has gone its entire existence without a Class A mishap, it has not been an easy accomplishment.
"We run 12-hour shifts here," said Celigoy. "It is definitely a challenge. You have to be constantly vigilant from every level of leadership from the commanding officer all the way down to the noncommissioned officers. You are constantly fighting against complacency because you are literally working every day."
According to Celigoy, a graduate from the University of Washington, it's not any single Marine or section that has kept the safety record together.
"When you are talking about 22 years, it's generations of Wolfpack Marines that have fought to keep that record intact," Celigoy concluded. "They are supporting all of us and it represents a badge of pride that we've kept our aircraft flying safely and that we've brought all of our crews home alive."