Photo Information

Marines from 1st Radio Battalion soar over Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Feb. 3. Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 flew the parachutists for a parachute training operation.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Lisa M. Tourtelot

'Wahorses' give parachutists a lift

9 Feb 2011 | Lance Cpl. Lisa M. Tourtelot

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, the “Warhorses,” might be known primarily for their heavy-lift capabilities - CH-53E “Super Stallions” are the only helicopters capable of carrying each other - but the pilots and crew get to show off finesse when executing operations as complicated and difficult as parachute training.

The Warhorses flew 8 Marines from 1st Radio Battalion to practice static line-parachuting with the new MC-7 parachute system and maintain the currency of their training over Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Feb. 3.

A static line is a fixed cord attached at multiple points to the aircraft and to the parachute so the chute deploys as soon as the jumper leaves the aircraft.

The pilots and crew of HMH-465 had many things to consider before launching jumpers from their aircraft - wind speed, the precise length of static line needed, the weight each jumper carries, specific lines of communication between the pilots, crew, jump masters and personnel manning the landing zone.

The crew chiefs, who provided a line of communication between the jump masters and the pilots, enjoyed assisting with the unique training.

“I’m always curious when I’m hanging my head out the window if I could jump out the back [of the aircraft],” said Pfc. Michael Zawicki, a crew chief with HMH-465. Zawicki, on only his third flight as a crew chief, explained that he took advantage of the training opportunity.

“It’s more hectic [than flights without additional passengers and crew] because I’m paying attention to everyone in the plane,” said the Westminster, Calif., native. “I can now do more in a [parachute operation] because I know more about how to coordinate everything.”

Thompson emphasized the importance of parachute operations in the improvised explosive device-laden terrain of Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Parachutes eliminate the risk of IEDs because no one is driving,” said Thompson. “It’s one of the better means of [inserting troops and supplies] and reconnaissance Marines use it all the time. If we had the opportunity to do this more, it could save a lot of lives.”

High winds got the better of the day’s jumpers and sent several of them across the street from the designated landing zone. The rest of the Marines waiting to jump would have to wait another day.