Marines with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 465 “Warhorse” flew from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California to El Centro, California, to conduct training Nov. 16.
A total of four CH-53E Super Stallion pilots and seven aircrew members will train over a seven-day period while in a simulated expeditionary environment.
According to Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Wilcox, a crew chief with HMH-465 and a Redding, California native, the training will consist of transporting passengers and cargo, aerial gunnery training, fire bucket training with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and terrain flights.
“The main purpose of all this training is to maximize the potential for a one-plane detachment,” said Wilcox.
“We’re going to go to work with CAL FIRE to do fire bucket training [which is something] CH-53Es are regularly on standby for over the course of the year.”
While Marines with HMH-465 conduct other forms of training about once a month, the opportunity to conduct fire-bucket training with CAL FIRE happens approximately twice a year.
“Last summer, we got activated for the fires,” said Capt. Anthony Parker, an aviation safety officer with HMH-465 and a Fredericksburg, Virginia native. “We actually [dropped] water to help the surrounding area of San Diego. That’s why it’s good training. You need to be able to do that.”
According to Parker, the fire-bucket training not only helps the city of San Diego during an emergency, but it is also a requirement for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
“It’s important for us to do the training before we get activated for fighting fires,” said Wilcox. “That way we can introduce … how the system works, how to conduct the actual mission of fighting fires with CAL FIRE and integrating with them.”
In addition to conducting the fire bucket training, the newer members of the aircrew and newer co-pilots will employ and maintain the .50-caliber machine gun weapon system.
“This training is important because this is the same stuff we’re going to be doing on a [Marine Expeditionary Unit] or on deployment,” said Parker.
“It’s our mission to support the Marines on the ground, and to do that, they have to be able to employ the weapon effectively. That goes for the crew in the back and the pilots putting the aircraft into position.”
The Marines will complete five flight days and one day of maintenance before returning to MCAS Miramar on Nov. 20.