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Cpl. Samuel H. Cox, a Mequon, Wis., native, directs a CH-53D Sea Stallion into a parking spot on the flight line at Al Asad, Iraq, March 21. Cox is a helicopter mechanic with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Photo by Lance Cpl. James B. Hoke

Delta squadron hits first Iraq deployment

18 Mar 2006 | Lance Cpl. Lance Cpl. James B. Hoke

The distinctive sound of a massive C-5 Galaxy turned the heads of the Marines on the ground, as it set down on the dust-covered runway. The giant aircraft slowly pushed its way up the flight line through the sand-filled winds, the Marines following it with only one concern in their eyes -- to get their birds unloaded from the whale of an aircraft.

Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, have been unloading and putting their CH-53D Sea Stallions together. The aircraft have trickled in from their home station, Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, during the past week.

"There are a couple of ways that we can get out here," said 1st Lt. John A. Boring, maintenance material control officer, HMH-463. "We came by C-5. You can also go by boat."

Once the Marines have unloaded the Sea Stallions from the C-5 Galaxy, their next mission is to rebuild the aircraft, as they have to be broken down into smaller pieces in order to fit aboard the Galaxy.

"Inside the C-5, it has about two inches of clearance," said Boring, a Lansdale, Pa., native. "Once we get them off of the plane, we have to install the gear boxes, put the breaks on and change out the tires. Those are the major pieces. There's a lot of other little pieces underneath that we have to change out, too."

According to Boring, after the helicopter is pulled from the C-5 Galaxy in its broken down form, it takes about a day and a half to completely rebuild it.

Although putting the birds together in the desert takes less than two days to accomplish, the Marines also have to put up with certain hindrances from the environment.

"Sand storms are a set back," said Boring. "It's kind of hard to put (the aircraft) back together when you have 30-mile-per-hour winds blowing around, as the Marines have to get out there and stand up on top of the aircraft."

With the difficulties of rebuilding these aircraft in a war zone, Pegasus Marines are also endowed with the record of being the first CH-53D Sea Stallion squadron to deploy to Iraq.

While not a unique situation for the aircraft itself, as deployments of the Delta-model helicopters has been done before, it is an exceptional mark in the history of the squadron.

According to Cpl. Adam M. Price, crew chief, HMH-463, a lot of people have said this is the first time Deltas have been out here, but it isn't.

"I was here for six months with the (Marine Expeditionary Unit) on Deltas," said Price, a Ferriday, La., native. "As a squadron, it's the first time Deltas have been here."

As the Delta-model Sea Stallions are slowly being replaced by the CH-53E Super Stallions, they still manage to bring something new to the field of aviation.

"We are half way between the (CH-46 Sea Knights) and the (CH-53E Super Stallions) in terms of capabilities," said Boring. "We can do a lot more than the 46s, and we bring a slightly different view to sight."

There are a few significant differences between the Deltas and their bigger brothers, the Echoes.

"The major differences between the Echoes and the Deltas are the amounts they can lift," said Price. "The Echoes have a third engine and are a lot bigger."

Although the Deltas are lacking against the Echoes and have surpassed the Sea Knights, the superlative helicopter is tasked and successful with the missions of both aircraft.
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing