Landing support platoon performs external lifts
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan -- As wind from an MV-22B Osprey’s rotors whipped debris across the landing zone, Marines prepared to hook a 7,000-pound concrete block to the hovering aircraft.
Alertness was at an all-time high as landing support specialists assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, executed external lift training at the Kin Blue Training Area near Camp Hansen May 9.
As members of the 31st MEU, CLB-31 performs external lifts routinely to perfect its techniques and remain proficient.
“The goal is to get the Marines comfortable with the training, so they can conduct external lifts in various environments during real-world situations,” said 2nd Lt. Wesley Jackson, a logistics officer and platoon commander with CLB-31. “It is a very important capability that can provide the MEU’s commanding officer with more flexibility when it comes to planning and supporting operations.”
As part of the training scenario, the Osprey moved a 7,000-pound concrete block to different locations in the training area to simulate equipment being transported.
The loading team, which consists of five to nine Marines, bears much of the responsibility when preparing to execute an external lift. A loading team is comprised of outside coordinators who guide the aircraft into a hover position over the cargo. Once the aircraft is in position, inside coordinators use hand-and-arm signals to communicate with the outside coordinators who signal the pilots to adjust the aircraft’s elevation so that a hook, which is connected to the bottom of the aircraft, is able to secure the cargo. Once the hook is in place, two Marines connect the cargo to the aircraft.
Immediately following the connection, the aircraft slowly ascends to transport the cargo.
“Basically, we can take just about anything within a certain weight limit and hook it to the bottom of the aircraft, which allows us to expedite the movement of food, vehicles or other supplies,” said Sgt. James Scearse, a landing support specialist and platoon sergeant with CLB-31.
Marines assigned to S-4, supply and logistics, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III MEF, attended and observed the training.
Although their responsibility during this exercise was to watch and learn, the Marines will be expected to perform external lifts following additional familiarization and hands-on training, according to Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Suber, logistics chief with 4th Marine Regiment.
“We train to expand our capability in case we find ourselves in a situation where we will need it,” said Suber. “There is not always a landing support specialist available, so we need to have the knowledge to complete the mission.”
All involved increased their skills with external lifts and as they continue to practice, they will continue to progress, according to Scearse.
“I feel proud when I see everything go as planned,” said Scearse. “It means that my peers and I have done our job making sure these guys are trained. When it’s time for us to use these skills, I have absolutely no doubt that’s what we’ll do.”