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Members of the helicopter support team with Combat Logistics Battalion 11 from Camp Pendleton, attach an external training block to a CH-53E with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 April 8. The helicopter support team helped pilots and aircrew qualify to perform external lifts.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Justis T. Beauregard

Warhorse feels the cold, trains in Bridgeport

6 Apr 2009 | Lance Cpl. Austin Goacher

The “Warhorse” of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 thundered off to Bridgeport to participate in several external lift training exercises April 6-10.

External lifts involve suspending heavy loads beneath the CH-53E “Super Stallion” for transportation, often to locations that are hard to access by land.

“Normally, if we were moving something like a humvee or a howitzer the unit would designate an area they wanted it moved to,” said Staff Sgt. Michael , a Warhorse crew chief.. “Training in Bridgeport is great because it allows us to become more proficient at flying in high altitudes.”

 During the training evolutions, the Marines practiced lifting large concrete blocks to simulate the loads they would carry in a deployed environment, explained Lance Cpl. Christopher Brooks, a a member of Combat Logistics Battalion 11’s heliopter support team. 

“While we were here, we performed single and dual lift missions,” said Brooks, who has helped prepare more than 250 external lifts. “The blocks weighed between 4,500 and 9,000 pounds.”

In order to prepare for the lifts, Marines aboard the aircraft set up a device which lowers from the helicopter and allows Marines on the ground to prepare the object for pick up, explained Bates.

“We have to work together with the pilot and the guys on the ground to make sure the aircraft is in the right position,” said Bates.

Two Marines on the ground perform arm signals to let the aircrew to communicate with the team above them, explained Bates.

While the aircrew positions the aircraft, the Marines on the ground contend with gale-force winds.

“Normally it’s cold as the helicopter approaches, but it was even colder here,” said Brooks. “The temperature drop makes it harder to work with your hands, which is what most of our work involves.”

When the Super Stallion took its place above the block, the team was free to work as normal because the area under the aircraft is free from wind, explained Brooks.

“I get an adrenaline rush every time I’m under a helicopter,” said Brooks. “New experiences like training at Bridgeport are what makes this fun.”

After a process which takes only a few seconds, the team signals to the aircrew letting them know they can take off with the block.

By braving the high altitude and low temperatures of Bridgeport, Marines of the Warhorse are now better prepared to deploy in harsh conditions


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing