Thursday, March 20, 2008

Feeding the wolves

Lance Cpl. Jessica Aranda

AL ASAD, Iraq (March 21, 2008) – The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) keeps supplies stocked across the area of operations through weekly resupply missions, including deliveries to “feed” the Marines at Combat Outpost Timberwolf.

Located in the mountainous terrain near the Euphrates River, the outpost is supplied by Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 and a Helicopter Support Team.

The HST Marines load pallets of supplies, guide the helicopter into the landing zone and externally connect the cargo to the helicopter.

“We assure the Marines working in remote areas have their necessities when they need them,” said Sgt. Eric Solano, the Arrival/Departure Air Control Group staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. “Loading the supplies externally ensures the aircrew can fly into a hot-zone and hover overhead without having to touch the deck. Airlifts are faster than convoys and they alleviate the risk of putting Marines in harm’s way.”

“If it takes two hours for a convoy to deliver these supplies, then that’s two hours the Marines are exposed to potential threats,” added Solano, a San Fernando Valley, Calif., native. “We eliminate that risk.”

To rig each external load, the landing support-specialists attached to the HST withstand hurricane-like winds as the massive helicopter hovers above their heads.

While focusing on properly connecting the load to the helicopter, the Marines also focus on the safety of the team.

“As the safety NCO, my main job is to keep an eye on everyone and everything that’s going on,” said Cpl. Michael Hernandez, a landing support specialist with Combat Logistics Battalion 6.
Each resupply is a chance for us to put our training into play, explained Hernandez.

The helicopters most commonly transport pallets of bottled water, food, fuel and mail.

“External lifts are the fastest way to transport equipment,” said Capt. John Mitchell, a pilot with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361. “We can carry larger things which wouldn’t otherwise fit inside the helicopter. By supporting outposts such as Timberwolf, we are giving the Marines the necessary sustenance to maintain their post and do their job.”

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