HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
The rotor blades are spinning and low chatter is drifting in over the internal communication system. The flight crews of the two MV-22B Ospreys awaiting takeoff – again – have been flying since before 5 a.m., March 28. It’s late morning now and their day is far from over.
Before the day is done, the crews from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 365, known as the “Blue Knights,” will have picked up nearly 40 Marines, sailors and Afghan National Army soldiers from a remote patrol base and dropped them off even deeper into Helmand province, Afghanistan.
“When getting ready for an [operation], I’m thinking about prepping the aircraft and making sure our weapons are clean and ready,” said Sgt. Kyle Harrison, a crew chief with VMM-365 and San Diego native. Harrison explained that clean weapons and updated personnel rosters are important concerns for him as a crew chief. He ensures that the aircrews have everything they need to complete the mission, whether it is available seats for passengers, ammunition or fuel.
Upon landing at the patrol base, there is little time before the Marines and sailors of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment file efficiently onto the two aircraft. They are organized and they are ready. They have all the gear they will need to spend several weeks outside the wire conducting combat operations.
The Marines and sailors of 2/6 have only been in country for a few months and some have already taken note of the efficiency and professionalism of the aircrews they often depend on for supplies, long distance movements and infiltrations.
“Every time we do this, they’re very professional,” said Lance Cpl. Dylan Jackson, a fire team leader with 2/6 and Fairfax, Va., native.
Jackson explained that he has participated in three aerial infiltrations and each time the aircrew has worked to get Marines and sailors to their destination safely and ahead of schedule.
Harrison added that the ability to fly to these locations is crucial to completing ground operations.
“We have the element of surprise,” said Harrison. “We drop out of the sky and land anywhere. If [ground troops] walk, they’re [vulnerable] to attack. If they have to take their vehicles, they’re forced to travel on roads with [improvised explosive devices.]”
When the Ospreys land at the predetermined patrol site in southwestern Afghanistan, the Marines, sailors and ANA soldiers are off the aircraft even faster than when they boarded. The well-trained personnel fan-out in a defensive arc, faced with barren desert and sparse farms.
“Once we got off the deck … everything went very quickly,” said Harrison. “We got the [ground combat element] exactly where they wanted to go. That helps them effectively carry out their mission.”
The Blue Knight crews take flight as soon as the last man is on the ground and at a safe distance from the Ospreys. The aircraft depart quickly, racing upward and conducting stomach-churning turns. The faster they get back in the air, the safer they are. It’s time to return to Camp Leatherneck and prepare for the next mission.