MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. --
Sgt. Lucas J. Torwal, the flight line quality assurance representative for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, works long hours as a mechanic for the CH-53E “Super Stallion.”
However, Torwal also holds an additional job title. He flies the skies aboard Super Stallions as an aerial observer for the “Heavy Haulers.”
Earning his aerial observer wings became a priority for both Torwal and his squadron, as they were nearing a deployment to Iraq in April 2008.
After passing a flight physical and the water survival course, it took the determined Marine two months to receive his wings in January 2008.
“I wanted to know everything that was going on, and wanted to get a piece of every task that needed to be done so I could be just as good as the crew chiefs who were instructing me,” said Torwal, who has been in the Corps since 2004.
Although his job kept the motivated Marine busy, he was a quick learner.
“He was willing to learn and picked up what we were teaching him quickly,” said Sgt. Keith M. Flick, a crew chief with the Heavy Haulers, who instructed Torwal.
While deployed, Torwal hit the skies with an average of 35 flight hours per month.
“I have conducted on and off-load of troops and cargo, transport of external loads, aerial gun shoots, night exercises, aerial refueling and other miscellaneous training,” said Torwal.
After returning from deployment, his experience as an aerial observer helped Torwal better understand his job as a mechanic.
“As an aerial observer, I get to see how the components work that mechanics perform maintenance on,” said Torwal, a native of Saipan, Mariana Islands. “This gives me a better understanding of the mechanics of the aircraft which in turn leads to me performing a higher quality of maintenance and being able to troubleshoot problems that may occur.”
Even though he enjoys being an aerial observer, his job as the flight line QAR for the squadron takes priority as he ensures the birds are safe to fly.
“On a day-to-day basis, the flight line shop is given a workload and plan of actions by maintenance control,” said Torwal.
Furthermore, when Torwal is scheduled to fly, he has added responsibilities.
“On days I fly, I perform daily inspections on the aircraft as well as pre- and post-flight inspections,” said Torwal. “I assist the crew chiefs in their duties in order to prevent over-tasking of personnel which could lead to possible mishaps.”
Torwal knows that his decision to take on the challenge of becoming an aerial observer was well worth it.
“Becoming an aerial observer has been an amazing experience for me,” said Torwal. “After I started to fly, I just wanted to continue.”