MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Four CH-53E “Super Stallions” from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 traveled to the grassy hills of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton to perform a troop transport of Marines from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment March 4.
The flight, which transported 106 Marines, was part of training for the squadron’s upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in the summer.
Several CH-53E helicopters, a UH-1N “Huey” and an AH-1W “Super Cobra” from other squadrons also helped transport and coordinate with the ground troops.
“We’re just trying to simulate what it’s like in Afghanistan,” said Capt. Karrie Brimhall, a CH-53E pilot with HMH-361.
Troop transport is one of the main missions of the CH-53E helicopter. The helicopter can carry up to 24 people and all of their gear in a short amount of time.
Once the Marines were aboard, it took a matter of minutes to get them where they needed to be, explained 1st Lt. Jeffrey Menne, also a CH-53E pilot with HMH-361.
The pilots are also giving the guys on the ground a chance to actually experience getting on the aircraft and strap in, explained Menne. They don’t get that opportunity often.
The group landed in waves of three helicopters at a time. Once the Marines were on the ground, the next three aircraft landed.
One of the difficult parts for the pilots was the landing. The landing point was on a hill with soft ground so the pilots had to stay slightly off the ground so their wheels didn’t sink in.
“All of it was pretty good training because it was realistic to what we will actually be doing on deployment,” said Menne. “There’s probably a helicopter doing this stuff everyday in Afghanistan.”
After the Marines were on the ground, the helicopters circled the area for about 30 minutes before landing and picking them up.
The helicopters stayed at about 2,500 feet for most of the flight and traveled at around 100 to 120 knots.
“Considering it was six aircraft all together we worked together pretty well,” said Menne. “Everyone was coordinating together through the radio and we got everything done that was supposed to get done.”
Whether it’s transporting Marines or cargo, the pilots of HMH-361 are training everyday to ensure they are ready for the rigors of Afghanistan terrain.