- MCB Hawaii/ MCAS Kaneohe Bay
Hmh-463 Conducts Island Fly-Over, Employs Majority Assets
Story by LCpl Luke Kuennen on 12/20/2017
U.S. Marines and aircraft with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 (HMH-463) conducted retrograde operations and in-flight training from Marine Corps Training Area Bellows to Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Dec. 20, 2017.
HMH-463 used the training opportunity to maintain their squadron's readiness, as well as provide an experience similar to one they may face while forward deployed.
"We are exercising our ability to fight expeditiously," said Lt. Col. Kevin Hunter, the squadron's commanding officer, and the flight's assault flight leader. "We took five helicopters from Kaneohe Bay and took them out into the field into a somewhat austere environment, in order to train like we're taking part in some sort of contingency operation."
The event fulfilled several training objectives simultaneously, producing readiness and projecting power for the squadron and Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
"We've been operating in the field for over a week, so first and foremost, we want to retrograde all of our equipment and personnel, and get them back safely to the air station," Hunter said. "Another important point is that we are employing 75 percent of the squadron's assets at once, as an example to the Marine Aircraft Group 24 commander and the 1st Marine Air Wing commanding general of what the CH-53E community can provide them."
The employment of multiple aircraft afforded the opportunity for valuable experience to new pilots with HMH-463 like 1st Lt. Bradley Hood, the squadron's adjutant and legal officer.
"I personally have never taken part in an event like this," Hood said. "It's good training. You get to see how a larger scale division would work, and it's a little bit closer to what we would have in a combat situation."
Opportunities to train in this capacity are fairly rare, Hood said.
"We typically do a lot of section work, which employs one or two birds at a time," Hood said. "It's a pretty big deal for a squadron to have six birds in the air. It's a great way for us to showcase our readiness to the whole island, as well as the military community in general."
The event also provided a training platform to the squadron's crew chiefs and maintenance departments.
"My role is to back up the pilots," said Sgt. Kyle Owens, a CH-53E crew chief with the squadron. "As crew chiefs, we have a large responsibility to keep an eye out for them. Because our aircraft is so big, the pilots can really only see what's in front of them, so we have to keep a look out on the sides and back of the aircraft."
Flying in formation, the role and responsibilities of the crew chiefs is highlighted. The event was also an important mentorship opportunity for Owens' and other crew chiefs' Marines.
"I have a corporal who was my other crew chief in our helicopter," Owens said. "It was great for him to see what a six bird launch looks like. It's also a good way to prepare him if he ends up going to weapons and tactics instructor's course, where this type of exercise is much more prevalent."
Every aspect of the exercise served to positively impact the squadron, Hood said.
"In addition to the training itself, I think this is definitely a morale booster for all of us," Hood said. "Sometimes, it's a struggle for us to have these birds where we want them to be, maintenance-wise. To have them all up at once, demonstrating our readiness, I think overall it will improve the morale of the squadron."