Working underneath the hovering belly of a beast

23 Jul 2004 | Lance Cpl. Ruben D. Maestre

It is a sight watching a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter hover directly above Marines, 20 feet from the ground, but for the landing support specialists assigned to Beach Terminal Operations Company, 2d Transportation Support Battalion, 2d Force Service Support Group, it's all in a day's work.

"We assist CH-53, CH-46 and V-22 pilots, learning to pick up equipment without landing, three to four times a week," said Sgt. John T. Hooker, of Wilmington, and a platoon guide assigned to the company.  "This training keeps us familiarized with our job as well."

The Marines stood at ease as the huge helicopter hovered above them.  One Marine guided a metal hook to the straps attached to a heavy load, knowing the necessary hook was also a conductor of static electricity.  The powerful electric currents generated by the rotors, forces the Marines guiding the hook to wear huge leather reinforced, rubber gloves. 

"The electricity coming from the rotors goes throughout the helicopter," said Pfc. Ryan A. Lowe, of Warner Robbins, Ga., assigned to the company.  It is pretty exciting when there are two hundred and fifty thousand volts created by the rotors, passing through the helicopter, he said.

The Marines hooked a simulated load to the CH-53 using two types of lifts, single point and dual point, to lift the loads being used for training.  The type of strap used depends on the size, weight and shape of the cargo being lifted.  The simulated load was a piece of iron, which weighed around three tons.  The Marines hooked the load and the helicopter lifted off for a practice flight before returning and repeating the procedure all over again.

"We're helping the pilot out and helping ourselves out by doing this training," said Lance Cpl. Jeremy A. Roberts, of Grand Island, N.Y., assigned to the unit. 

The Marines say their work is dangerous and repetitive, but they still can recall the excitement from working under a hovering helicopter  

"When people ask me what I do, and I tell them I work underneath a helicopter hovering over me, they get this crazy look on their face," said Pfc. Gregory W. Hollier, of Opelousas, La.  "They are amazed by that and the fact you can get shocked at any moment."