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A CH-53E Super Stallion with the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 (Reduced) (Reinforced) “Flying Tigers” returns to Forward Operating Base Jalalabad, Afghanistan to deliver a disabled H-47 Chinook for repairs Dec. 10. The Flying Tigers, based out of Camp Bastion, flew across the country to conduct the mission. Their Super Stallions are the only aircraft in country capable of a 23,500 pound external lift.

Photo by Sgt. Derek B. Carlson

‘Flying Tigers’ show true meaning of ‘horsepower’ with Super Stallion

10 Dec 2010 | Sgt. Derek B. Carlson

A small group of Marines with the Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 (Reduced) (Reinforced) “Flying Tigers” arrived here from Camp Bastion to recover a nearby disabled aircraft Dec. 10.

The aircraft, an H-47 Chinook, was forced to land in the nearby mountains during standard operations, and was unable to take flight after the landing. The cause of the Chinook’s forced landing is still under investigation; however, the coalition service members aboard the aircraft were not injured. No hostile or enemy activity was involved in the incident.

The Flying Tigers traveled here aboard two CH-53E Super Stallions, the only aircraft in Afghanistan with the capability to recover the downed Chinook, and quickly began to prepare their aircraft to externally lift the immobile helicopter back to Forward Operating Base Jalalabad.

Maintenance Marines removed the auxiliary fuel tanks, seats, one of the aircraft’s tail-ramp and all unnecessary cargo from their Super Stallions within a few hours of their arrival. All excess weight was removed in preparation for the lift to ensure the Super Stallion could dedicate maximum power to the mission. Gunnery Sgt. Bryan Cox, the squadron’s maintenance chief and a crew chief assigned to the lift, said the maintenance Marines “were the stars of the show,” and the recovery would not have been possible without their hard work and attention to detail.

Once the Super Stallions were refueled, early the next morning, the Tigers were ready to takeoff as the sun rose over the distant mountains. Lt. Col. Douglas Glasgow, the squadron’s commanding officer, piloted the Super Stallion, which lifted the Chinook from its resting place. The Chinook was returned to FOB Jalalabad, where it immediately began to receive repairs.

“This was an awesome experience,” said Maj. Dan Murphy, Glasgow’s co-pilot. “The Chinook weighed around 23,500 pounds. With reduced engine power at this elevation, this lift was a very significant accomplishment. Thanks to the CO’s skill level and perfection with this aircraft we salvaged a 30 to 40-million dollar piece of equipment.”

After the Chinook was safely returned, the Marines immediately began preparation of their aircraft for their long journey home to Camp Bastion – mission accomplished.

“This was a big deal for us, but it is also our job – it’s what we do,” said Cox, a Louisville, Ky., native. “This is the baddest plane there is. Sure, some may boast about the bombs they drop or how fast they fly, but no one has muscle like we do.”