View Full Version : 'Red Patchers' pack, lock & hook

03-06-03, 01:02 PM
'Red Patchers' pack, lock & hook; Team makes practice picture perfect

Submitted by: 2d Force Service Support Group
Story Identification Number: 200336112533
Story by Staff Sgt. Jason Huffine

CAMP FOX, Kuwait(March 5, 2003) -- Packing nets, locking straps and hooking thousands of pounds of cargo to the bottom of a helicopter is nothing new for most Marine Corps landing support specialists. Ask many of them and they'll tell you they can do it with their eyes closed. Now, add desert sands, an unpaved landing zone and even more unpredictable winds, the specialists will tell you the scenario is a little different.

That's exactly what the Marines and sailors from Landing Support Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Transportation Support Battalion faced here today. Combine the fact the Marine Logistics Command asset's scheduled air never showed, and one might think that operational tempo would stop. Today, that was not the case.

According to Marine Staff Sgt. Jonathan Dowdall, his seniors tasked his team to move vehicle repair parts via air to Camp Coyote. Dowdall said this would have been the perfect opportunity for his Marines to "shake the cobwebs" from their nets - but because higher headquarters tasked the scheduled helicopter with something of higher priority his Marines used the time to train.

"Helicopter support teams are an asset the Corps will utilize to save time and money in the near future," said the Buffalo, N.Y., native.

Dowdall explained the training his Marines did now would pay off in future operations here. He said it normally takes his Marines four hours to prepare for an HST. This includes time spent coordinating a corpsman and radio support. He said it is all a learning process, so bird or not, they would proceed and utilize the makeshift landing zone to practice operations.

Lance Cpl. Curtis Knight, a basic landing support specialist, said the more time he gets handling the nets and cargo hooks the better.

"The E-3s (lance corporal) and below are the main Marines under the birds when they come in," the 19-year-old said. "My corporals and sergeants supervise the efforts. So I feel a lot more comfortable when the team and I get to practice."

Knight, who less than a year ago was a civilian in Houston watching what Marines do on television, has only two actual HSTs under his belt. He said the only time he's been under the flying rotors of a CH-53 helicopter was at his military occupational specialty school at Camp Johnson, N.C.

"It's awesome looking up and seeing that bird hovering over you. The adrenaline gets pumping, the dust is flying; I am looking forward to doing it again," he said.

Knight's excitement about his job is obvious, however, another Marine staff sergeant said at times the excitement is outweighed by the dangers associated with the job.

Staff Sgt. William Bilenski, 27, explained when a helicopter comes in it creates more than 200,000 volts of static electricity. He said there's not an HST mission done, when Marines don't think about the safety of those around them. He explained that rods are in place to ground the electricity, and Marines wear rubber gloves when doing the job.

"Situational awareness is the key," the Pittsburg native and former drill instructor said. "I tell my Marines to always think safety, and always above all know where the bird's cargo hooks and rotors are. You don't want to get hit by one of those."

According to Bilenski, TSB will continue to use HSTs here to protect the battalion's vehicles and transit time for future operations. He said ideally when roads are bad or a bridge is not crossable, an HST is the way to go.

Elements of 2nd Transportation Support Battalion have been here since late-December. HSTs are just one TSB element. The 2nd Force Service Support Group asset based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., has the official mission of providing the throughput of personnel, supplies and equipment, and the distribution of heavy and medium motor transport support.