Photo Information

Three CH-53E “Super Stallions” sit on the flight line at the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, Calif., during a week of night training completed by Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, April 6 to 10.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Justis T. Beauregard

HMH-465 flew to snowy summit

6 Apr 2009 | Lance Cpl. Justis T. Beauregard

Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 left behind the sun and surf of San Diego for the snow and mountains here, April 6.

The “Warhorse” detached with less than 50 Marines in three CH-53E “Super Stallions” for a week of training.

MWTC, one of the most isolated Marine Corps installations, provides high altitude and cold weather, both of which the squadron will face in Afghanistan.

The pilots and aircrew qualified in external lifts, practiced terrain flights, landed in snow covered landing zones and confined areas, said Capt. Jonathan M. Williamson, a Warhorse pilot.

Weather and climate conditions provide new obstacles for the squadron’s training. 

“Working in the freezing temperatures is mentally tougher than our routine training,” said Staff Sgt. Michael T. Ross, a squadron crew chief.

Visibility is a problem when landing in the snow. There is a possibility of a white out, which is similar to a brown out when landing in a dusty area, explained Williamson. Also, visibility with night vision goggles is impaired due to light reflecting off the snow.

Another challenge is the thinner air density in the high altitudes which cause the aircraft to handle differently, explained Ross. It can not lift the same amount of weight it does at sea level.

“Bridgeport is as close as we can get to the environment of the mountains in Afghanistan while in the United States,” said Williamson.

The base offers many cold weather and high altitude training courses, including Winter Advanced Mountain Leaders Course, Animal Packers Course and Mountain Scout Sniper Course.

The Marines worked at night which gave them time to explore the local area.

“The base is an outdoor paradise it is a great chance for the Marines to go fishing and mountain biking,” said Sgt. Maj. James R. Lucas, the squadron sergeant major. “It is also a great place for the Marines to spend time together and build unit cohesion.”

In addition to the training at the MWTC, the Warhorse have Marines at the Weapons Training Instructors Course at MCAS Yuma, Ariz., and are conducting various training missions aboard MCAS Miramar to prepare for an upcoming deployment.