CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan --
When coalition forces and supplies need to be moved quickly throughout the Regional Command (Southwest)’s area of operations, the Marines of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), are here to carry the weight.
Using the CH-53D Sea Stallion, the “Ugly Angels” of HMH-362 provide assault support transport of combat troops, supplies and equipment during expeditionary operations.
“Our primary mission is assault support, which boils down to people and cargo,” said Capt. Salvador Jauregui, a pilot with the Ugly Angels. “Everybody has their contribution to make, otherwise the machine doesn’t work.”
HMH-362’s contributions to supporting operations are the daily tasking missions of transporting coalition forces, local Afghans, Afghan National Police, civilians and any type of cargo the aircraft can lift. The aircraft is capable of internal and external lifts of cargo ranging from mail to High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles.
“We support the infantry; it’s our whole purpose in life,” said Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Starky, the squadron’s operations chief.
When the infantry is traveling long distances, the fastest way to get there is by helicopter, instead of going via convoy, added Starky.
To ensure the gear and personnel traveling get where they need to go on time, HMH-362 Marines start planning flights about two days in advance.
Once an assault support request is received, the Marines must consider several factors including weight, flight time and the amount of fuel needed. Other considerations are the required inspections and maintenance the planes need to ensure they are able to fly, explained Starky.
Once planning is complete, it is up to the aircraft’s enlisted crew to ensure things run smoothly throughout the flight.
“As a crew chief, it’s just about keeping track of the ASR, knowing where we’re going and what will change when we get there,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle Taylor, an Ugly Angels crew chief. “It is a lot of common sense. Look at what you have and where you’re taking it.”
The crew spends an average day flying from four to seven hours.
Sometimes the shorter days can turn into a longer one depending on the ASRs and how flights can change, explained Taylor, who is originally from Oak Lawn, Ill.
When the Marines fly for that many hours in a combat environment, they use a combination of mental and physical effort.
“You see all the mud huts and most of the areas we go into are populated, so you constantly have to be looking for threats,” said Starky, who is originally from Tecumseh, Mich. “It’s more mentally draining because you are always thinking. Whether you are looking for threats or figuring out how to organize cargo.”
The Marines complete these tasking missions each day to ensure they are doing their part to keep the coalition forces supplied and transported where ever they need to go.