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A Marine with the Basic Reconnaissance Course, School of Infantry West, leaps into San Diego Bay as part of helocast training, April 30. The students learned the basics of helocasting with classroom instruction, walk-through's and practical application. (Official U.S. Marine Corps photo)(Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

‘White Knights’ help Marines take their first plunge

30 Apr 2009 | Lance Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

Water covers two-thirds of the planet. With so much water, the Corps has a special method of inserting Marines into hostile territory using the vast oceans to mask their approach.

This special method, called helocasting, involves Marines jumping out the back of helicopters flown several miles offshore. The Marines then secretly make their way for land.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, called the “White Knights,” helped the Marines and sailors from the Basic Reconnaissance Course, School of Infantry West, complete training requirements with helocasting, near Naval Base Coronado April 30.

The White Knights flew two CH-46E “Sea Knights” and carried groups of students 10 feet over the water surface at a speed of 10 knots. The castmasters gave the signal for Marines and sailors to jump and with a push, the students leaped into the water one after another.

“This squadron deploys with Marine Expeditionary Units, so this would be part of a contingency,” said Capt. Joseph Begley, a pilot with the squadron. “Ultimately, we benefited from training with the different groups and communicating with them today.”

To maintain safety and situational awareness, the air crew utilized each crew member and maintained constant communication with safety boats and the landing zone during the training. 

“I’ve done this a few times, but this is something we don’t get to do as often as some of our other training,” said Cpl. Larry F. Shead, a crew chief with the White Knights.

Instructors manning safety boats picked up each group of floating Marines and ferried them to shore. The wet suit and camouflage-clad students then donned load bearing vests and rubber rifles for their second jump. For their final jump, the Marines wore a combat load complete with packs and rubber rifles.

“It was pretty awesome jumping for the first time,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron LeBlanc, a student with the Basic Reconnaissance Course. “It felt like a mix between riding on a rollercoaster and a racetrack.”

Marines have used the same helocasting methods for decades, with such aircraft as CH-53 “Super Stallions,” and UH-60 “Black Hawks.”

“No one can say exactly who invented helocasting, but we reference most of our doctrine from the Special Forces Operations Manual,” said Staff Sgt. Mickey Eaton, the amphibious primary instructor with the course. “It really came about during the Vietnam War when the helicopter was being used the most.”

Helocasting itself is simply a clandestine means to insert special operations teams deep into enemy-held territory, added Eaton. Teams may launch an F470 Zodiac as means of transportation or they may swim to shore. Normally, large ships carrying these teams can not get close enough for insertion, by using helicopters, Marines can be moved in closer to shore.

“The squadron has been a tremendous help with the training,” said Gunnery Sgt. James Treadwell, the course chief with the Basic Reconnaissance Course.  “They’ve absolutely been a great asset for a training event like this, and we couldn’t have done it without them.”

With the support from the White Knights and the helocast training learned by the students, amphibious operations can continue with this next generation of reconnaissance Marines.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing