AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq -- In a classic display of daring, precise execution and teamwork, leathernecks from 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) elements joined forces to transport food and water to the Marines of Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Dec. 3.
The job of preparing, lifting and delivering the precious cargo to the infantry unit positioned near the city of Hit, Iraq, was of paramount importance and the Marines of MEU Service Support Group 13 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (Reinforced) were prepared for the opportunity to lend a hand.
“Before the helicopters arrived, we had to get the supplies brought to the (landing zone) and rig up the pallets so that each load would allow the birds to fly straight without the supplies moving around a lot,” said Lance Cpl. Anthony W. Johnson, landing support specialist, MSSG-13. “We generally use nets or whatever the situation calls for to secure the load before we hook it up to the helo.”
The 21-year-old native of Omaha, Neb., added that in addition to the dangers associated to being in a combat zone, the landing support specialists had to factor in the hazards of working beneath a hovering behemoth like the Super Stallion- which includes high voltage and hurricane-force winds- making safety as critical as the mission itself.
On the aerial end of the deliveries, the Marines of HMM-163 (Rein) were called upon to transport the supplies and equipment across the Al Anbar Province, which provided challenges as well.
“Since there is a lot of dirt and sand in Iraq, dust is a huge consideration, because it can make it very easy for the pilot to lose reference with the ground while landing an external load,” said Lt. Col. Don H. Scribner, aircraft maintenance officer, HMM-163 (Rein).
“In addition to paying attention to what you are doing when you are dropping off or picking up a load, you also have to be aware of various dangers in the area, such as surface-to-air threats,” remarked the 38-year-old native of Darien, Conn.
Despite obstacles on both ends of the resupply mission, the overlying theme of teamwork fostered during previous training evolutions helped the operation run smoothly and successfully.
“As a team, the (13th Marine Expeditionary Unit) brings a pretty good capability to bear,” smiled Scribner. “Normally when dealing with a helicopter support team, you don’t have a face to put with the name or the voice, but here we know the individuals we work with from having trained with them during workups over the past few years and things click together for us a little easier.”
“Our relationship is important because the pilots basically trust us and follow the directions we give them on the ground,” remarked Cpl. Aaron R. Craig, landing support specialist, MSSG-13. “Teamwork is important because it prevents the landing support Marines on the ground from accidentally getting hit by a helicopter tire or the hook that’s attaching to the load.”
“They also have a man located inside the helo looking down through the “hellhole” who lets us know what little fine-tuned adjustments we need to make in order to get the hook attached to the load,” mentioned the 20-year-old native of Hugo, Okla.
According to Johnson, the positive effects of the mission both elements helped accomplish are definitely felt on both sides of the supply spectrum.
“I’m sure it gives the Marines who receive the supplies comfort to know that they have the food, water and things they need while they are out there taking care of business,” said Johnson. “It’s really fulfilling to know that we can resupply them with the things they need to survive and protect themselves at anytime.”
“When we work together to take the (infantry what they need) it feels like I’m doing my job and making things safer for the Marines on the ground,” emphasized 33-year-old Grand Prairie, Texas, native Staff Sgt. John C. Burns, avionics technician, HMM-163 (Rein). “It really gives me a sense job satisfaction.”