USS RUSHMORE -- When Marines need essential gear, vehicles or equipment in the field, they need it quickly. The helicopter support team, a group of landing support specialists, is called to support this vital mission.
During the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s deployment, Marines assigned to Transportation Support Detachment, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th MEU, practiced the planning and execution of a HST aerial lift aboard USS Rushmore, April 27.
The team of four conducted a training that consisted of seven lifts of a cargo net filled with oversized tires to help them keep their skills sharp. The pilots and crew of a CH-46E Sea Knight assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (Rein.), 15th MEU, participated in the exercise to bolster both the Marines on the flight deck and their own training.
“We conducted an external lift with a [CH-46E], carrying one load of three tires inside a net,” said Sgt. Andy Alonso, landing support specialist, Transportation Support Detachment, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “This was the first chance we’ve had to conduct an HST since the deployment began. It provided a unique opportunity for us to practice a major part of our job as LS specialists.”
Each Marine within the team holds a job essential to the mission. The static Marine’s job is to attach an anti-static wand to the hook hovering above the load. The helicopter’s wings generate an electric charge on the hook the same way socks rubbed on carpet can produce a shock. But this charge is much more powerful and can be fatal if not grounded by the Marine with the wand.
Once the hook is grounded, the hooking Marine can latch on the load to the helicopter and after ensuring the load is properly connected, safely move his team out from under the helicopter. Two directors help guide the helicopter into position to make the job easier for the crew and protect their team down below. The HST working together allows smooth operation and safely delivered cargo.
“It’s important for us to practice continually,” said Alonso, a 26-year-old native of New York City. “It’s our job to know how to properly and safely execute an HST [operation]. Just like any other job, if you don’t continuously do it, you become complacent. I like HST [operations], I enjoy the fact that we can directly support Marines outside the wire with supplies and equipment when they need it most, which is why it’s so important to teach our Marines to do this right.”
The landing support specialists also used the training opportunity to cross-train three other Marines outside the LS field on the procedure.
“This was a great learning experience,” said Staff Sgt. Julio A. Renteria, motor transportation operations chief, TS Detachment, CLB-15, 15th MEU. “It was my first time doing an aerial lift. It’s great learning other military occupational specialties. It gets you out of the realm of your job and allows you to fill a variety of capabilities of what other MOSs can do.”
With the training finished, a group of landing support specialist refreshed their skills, trained three Marines outside their MOS, assisted in the training of the crew of a CH-46 and had a great time doing what they do the best.
The 15th MEU is comprised of approximately 2,400 Marines and sailors and is deployed as part of the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group. Together, they provide a forward-deployed, flexible sea-based Marine Air Ground Task Force capable of conducting a wide variety of operations ranging from humanitarian aid to combat.