NAVAL BASE CORONADO --
A dozen Marines and sailors donned their flippers, goggles and helmets aboard a roaring CH-53E “Super Stallion,” as they prepared to jump into the Pacific Ocean.
For the Basic Reconnaissance Course, School of Infantry West students, it was just another day in their curriculum, but for Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, it was an opportunity to receive special insertion qualifications. Three pilots and three crew chiefs received their qualifications, which is an annual requirement for the aircrew.
It took the “White Tigers” four trips to get their aircrew qualified and the BRC students trained. The realistic training helped the pilots and crew chiefs sharpen their skills as if in a deployed environment. Marine heavy helicopter squadrons typically conduct this type of mission while on Marine Expeditionary Unit deployments to tactfully insert troops. For this reason, it’s important for the aircrew to keep proficient in the craft, commented Capt. Kevin T. Shepherd, a pilot for the White Tigers.
Aircrews do not just pick up troops and drop them off in a given landing zone, the job requires more precision. The aircrew must be in constant communication before and after inserting the troops to ensure they arrive safely and effectively, commented Shepherd.
“There are a lot of visual illusions because of the waves and the cloud of water around the helicopter during these missions,” said Shepherd. “We always have to be vigilant of everything, and communication is vitally important.”
After the pilots maneuver the Super Stallion into a tilted position and have it hovering ten feet above the water’s surface, the cast master gives the command and the BRC students jump out of the aircraft two at a time. The pilots must maintain the helicopter in the same position until each student is off the rear.
Although it’s the aircrew’s job to get the aircraft in the right position, the cast master always has the final word when the students can jump for safety and training purposes, explained Staff Sgt. Mickey Eaton, the primary instructor for amphibious operations for the Reconnaissance Training Company.
“This is the bare basics of helocast training for the students,” said Eaton. “They are all required to go through this. The helicopter makes it as realistic as it gets.”
The training concluded with the reconnaissance Marines and sailors completing their mission thanks to the White Tigers, who also obtained essential training qualification.