HMM-163 keep aerial options open -- Marines of Marine Medium Helicopter 163 (Reinforced) have been steadily taking to the skies supporting troops in Iraq. HMM-163 has been performing missions and operations here since the MEU’s arrival in early June.
The MEU’s Air Combat Element is currently spread throughout the country bringing support in areas of operation from here to Al Qaim.
The squadron has been racking up flight hours and sorties since beginning their aerial pursuit in theater, with an average of 30 flight hours and 22 sorties daily. They have also taken part in transporting personnel. Over 8,000 people have been transported to date, ranging from troops to VIPs. The squadron’s varying missions are in support of the MEU, and Multi-National Force-West as a whole.
“We’ve managed to accomplish a lot since we’ve been out here,” said Gunnery Sgt. William Jahnigen, flight line mechanics chief. “Overall, I feel that we have done an outstanding job from the top to the bottom.”
“You could kind of say we have a hand in all aerial operations the MEF is conducting in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom,” said Jahnigen.
The Marines of HMM-163 consider the maintenance of the helicopters paramount, understanding that mission accomplishment relies on the availability and ability of the aircraft that the crews fly.
“The workload has been pretty demanding considering the increase of hours we fly here compared to in California,” said Jahnigen.
The aircraft are pushed to the limit here and mechanics, known as the phase team, thoroughly inspect the aircraft replacing anything that is broken or could possibly cause problems during flight. It’s a long and tedious process, but the six Marines in the CH-46E Sea Knight phase crew see their job as vital in the maintenance and performance of the aircraft.
“When a bird comes in, you hope that everything is working properly, making what we do easier,” said Cpl. Daniel W. Perkins, CH-46E, airframe mechanic. “But there are times when the discrepancies on a certain bird just don’t (seem to) end. It’s definitely better to find the problems so they can be fixed down here, rather than in mid-flight.”
Though their extremely demanding duties are often left unrecognized, the Marines selfless attitude shows they understand just how important they are to the mission.
“The Marines out here may not get to see the direct result or get instant gratification for what they are doing, but they have a good understanding of the big picture,” said Jahnigen. “They understand what being a Marine and supporting fellow Marines is all about.”