Marines with 1st Transportation Support Battalion and Combat Logistics Battalion 26 provided Helicopter Support Teams for external lift training, and Marines with Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines conducted fast rope training, in support of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 during the semiannual Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course 2-17, at Auxiliary Airfield II, Yuma, Arizona, April 7.
Lasting seven weeks, WTI is a training evolution hosted by MAWTS-1 which provides standardized advanced and tactical training and certification of unit instructor qualifications to support Marine aviation training and readiness.
The HSTs with 1st TSB and CLB-26 support external lift training for MAWTS-1 pilots by attaching Humvee and light amphibious vehicles to CH-53E Super Stallions, the Marine Corps’ primary heavy lift helicopter.
"The pilots have to meet a certain amount of external lift hours and it’s our job to rig the loads properly so they conduct a successful flight," said Lance Cpl. James Andrews, maintenance support specialist with 1st TSB. "We prep every load to ensure minimum risk of anything breaking. It’s very important to practice with our team."
This training supporting the MAWTS-1 also advanced skills for the Marines with 1st TSB, coming from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, and CLB-26 coming from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
"A lot of the Marines here are fresh out of the school house and they’re gaining a lot of knowledge," said Lance Cpl. Alexander Adams, landing support specialist with CLB-26. "WTI has given us the opportunity to practice and become more proficient at our job in a different climate and experience a new environment."
WTI provides the Marines with experiences to train in a very important exercise in an environment they don’t get to train in all year round, said 2nd Lt. Joseph Harmon, logistics officer with 1st TSB.
"We’re doing these awesome lifts the Marines haven’t gotten to do before, we’re used to lifting blocks and high beams but here we are lifting Humvees and LAVs," said Harmon. "WTI is important because of the training it is provides. In a situation where Marines can’t have Humvees or 7-ton trucks, this provides forward supplies; ammo, MREs (Meal Ready-to-Eat), water, gas, it provides the best opportunities to get these logistical supplies to where it needs to go, with the quickest access."
Marines with Echo 2/6 also supported MAWTS-1 while conducting elevator drills and fast rope training from the CH-53E.
The Echo 2/6 Marines practiced different rotations fast roping, first with a kevlar, and then other rotations adding a flak while carrying a rifle.
"This was my first time fast roping but also my first time in a helicopter," said Lance Cpl. Jacob Morrell, intelligence specialist with Echo 2/6 Marines. "I was nervous, but while deployed it could become mission critical that we will have to fast rope in any given area that the aircraft cannot land in. You have to be able to do this confidently, knowing you will make it and then continue on afterward."
The Marines have enjoyed their experience during WTI so far, according to Capt. Brian Hinrichs, Echo 2/6, company commander.
"In Yuma there is a lot more we can show the Marines," said Hinrichs. "During WTI we have access to more tactical aircraft. This is a required skill for the Marines to have for us to be certified to go on a deployment; it gives us more maneuverability and more options to insert onto the objectives versus just having to land the aircraft. It’s a lot of the Marines first time on a helicopter but they’re having a blast."
The Marines are learning together and becoming a better team supporting this WTI, said Harmon.