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Four Marines from Radio Reconnaissance Platoon, 1st Radio Battalion, are lifted from the ocean near Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton by one of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462’s Ch-53E “Super Stallions,” March 25. Marines swam to the rope, through harsh rotor wash, to attach themselves to the Special Patrol Insertion and Extraction system.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Justis T. Beauregard

HMH 462 helps Recon Marines take a dive

25 Mar 2009 | Lance Cpl. Justis T. Beauregard

A day at the beach for most people involves surfing and jumping over waves – reconnaissance Marines pack their gear and jump from helicopters.

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 trained with Radio Reconnaissance Platoon, 1st Radio Battalion, at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton March 25.

The training was part of the Radio Reconnaissance Indoctrination Program and to prepare for upcoming deployments.

Pilots from HMH-462 flew the Marines to the coast near Camp Pendleton where they practiced insertion and extractions. 

“When the Marines hit the water, whether they are wearing a pack or not, they immediately put on fins and begin treading,” said 2nd Lt. Nathan A. Wood, the Radio Reconnaissance platoon commander. “When helocasting with a pack, the Marines tow it with a leash or push it in front of them as they swim.”

In a real-life tactical situation the Marines would then swim to shore and conduct their mission.

Afterward, they return to sea for extraction using the Special Patrol Insertion and Extraction system, explained Wood. 

“Swimming to the rope feels like you are in the Olympics trying to bring home the gold,” said Staff Sgt. Christian Stokes, RRIP training chief. “The rotor wash takes away most of your vision and you have a 25-pound weight around your waist.”

Constant communication between cast master, crew chiefs and pilots ensure the Marines safety when jumping into the water and hanging from the rope during the flight back to base.

 “The air crew is very important during helocast and SPIE rigging missions because we are responsible for the safety of the Marines preparing to be inserted into the drop zone,” said Cpl. Robert C. Hagstrom, a crew chief for the “Heavy Haulers.” “We are the eyes and ears of the pilots because they can’t see what’s happening below the aircraft during SPIE operations. By keeping good crew coordination, everyone in the aircraft knows what’s happening at all times.”

The Marines of HMH-462 were an essential part in making sure the Radio Recon Marines got the training they need for their upcoming deployment.

“The pilots and crew chiefs play a major role in the casting and SPIE training,” said Wood.  “It is their expertise that allows RRP to conduct high risk maneuvers.”


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing