Thursday, August 7, 2008

“Red Lions” on prowl in OIF; K-BAY squadron arrives at Al Asad

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq (July 26, 2008) – Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), also known as the “Red Lions,” roared into Al Asad Air Base in July.

The squadron of more than 180 Marines and sailors from Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, will provide assault support and transportation of troops, supplies and equipment with their CH-53D Sea Stallions, according to Red Lions commanding officer, Lt. Col. Hugh V. Tillman.

The squadron received their aircraft after HMH-463 completed a successful Western Pacific deployment, explained Tillman.

“The Marines from 463 did an excellent job of giving us ready-to-fly aircraft,” said Tillman. “Our Marines here work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure the aircraft are mission ready.”

The CH-53D, which made its first flight in 1964, was adopted by the Marine Corps in 1966 to satisfy the need for a heavy-lift helicopter, according to Tillman. The aircraft performed this duty until the introduction of the CH-53E Super Stallion in 1981. With the introduction of the CH-53E, the Sea Stallion transitioned to supporting medium-lift operations along with the CH-46E Sea Knight.

The CH-53D took on the role of medium lift helicopter because the CH-53E Super Stallion could haul up to 10,000 pounds more then the Sea Stallion, according to Capt. Peter Stachowicz, a pilot with HMH-363.

“The aircraft still brings a lot to the fight,” said Tillman. “The helicopter can support almost any mission that’s required. From aerial scouting to raids, this aircraft can do it all.”

Scheduled for replacement by the MV-22 Osprey, the Sea Stallion has proven to be a reliable asset during operations in the blistering cold of South Korea through the sweltering heat of Iraq.

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