EL TORO, Calif. --
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165, known as the “White Knights,” conducted several training evolutions in the mountains of El Toro, Feb 5. so the aircrews could familiarize themselves with an environment similar to Afghanistan.
Three CH-46E “Sea Knights” from HMM-165 practiced mountain landings and maneuvering through mountainous terrain during the exercise.
“This kind of training is the best we can get locally in preparation for Afghanistan,” said Capt. Bruce W. Vogelgesang, a pilot for Marine HMM-165.
Even though the training doesn’t exactly mirror the Afghanistan terrain, it helped the aircrew familiarize themselves with the environment.
“This area has the terrain and vegetation like Afghanistan,” said Sgt. James J. Barnhill, a crew chief with the squadron. “The training is a step in the right direction in future operations.”
The CH-46E aircrews received valuable experience from this exercise, which they perform several times a month, according to Vogelgesang.
“The margin for error is smaller in these landings,” said Maj. Russell M. Pool, a pilot with the squadron. “We have to get into a lot of tight spaces with this type of terrain.”
Any pilot landing a Sea Knight on high altitude and mountainous terrain, knows it takes more skills compared to landing on flat surfaces, commented Pool.
“These landings are harder because of smaller landing zones, limited reference points to the ground and the terrain,” said Vogelgesang.
Besides regular mountain landings, the White Knights performed main-mount landings, which consist of the rear of the craft landed while the aft part of the craft is still in the air.
“Only the tires on the back are in touch with the ground, the pilot is required to keep the nose of the craft elevated while the craft hovers,” said Pool. “These ‘halflandings’ are conducted in limited terrain, such as ridgelines.”
The White Knights will continue to conduct training like this for future deployments, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.