Marines assigned to Landing Support Platoon, Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, set up a landing zone with a load of tires and sandbags as part of external lift operations training at Landing Zone Falcon, Okinawa, Japan, Dec. 8, 2016. CLB-31 conducted the training with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced) to complete qualifications for the 31st MEU's upcoming spring deployment. As the Marine Corps' only continuously forward-deployed unit, the MEU’s air-ground-logistics team provides a flexible force, ready to perform a wide range of military operations, from limited combat to humanitarian assistance operations, throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (Photo by Cpl. Darien Bjorndal)
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan -- Marines with Landing Support Platoon, Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted annual helicopter support team and external load lift training Dec. 5-8, 2016, working with pilots from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 262 (Reinforced).
Landing Support Platoon’s combined training with VMM-262 (Rein.) provides a crucial capability to the 31st MEU during humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations (HADR). During the training, the MV-22B Osprey pilots conducted external load lifts of critical supplies, including sand bags and tactical vehicle tires.
Ospreys can lift external loads of up to 12,500 pounds, which are chained to the underside of the aircraft. The landing support specialists practiced meticulous rigging techniques to secure loads to help maintain a high safety standard, according to Cpl. Zachary Stevens, a landing support specialist with the platoon.
“Our gear is rated to carry weights well beyond what the aircraft can lift to keep us within our safety boundaries,” said Stevens. “The nets maintain the integrity of the load and keep everything held in tightly.”
The landing support specialists work in teams to properly secure external loads to aircraft and monitor them during transport. The pilots maintain constant communication with the Landing Support Platoon Marines to ensure the external loads are carried safely, according to Stevens.
External load lift transports are normally used to move critical equipment from ship to shore quickly, with little room for error. When speed is essential, as it is during HADR, external load transport is often the best or only option, according to Staff Sgt. Davon Hammond, the platoon chief.
“This training gives the Marines a chance to practice ship-to-shore and shore-to-ship external lift procedures in a controlled environment,” said Hammond. “In humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations, external lifts are often the only way to transport heavy equipment and machinery to units in country when ground transport routes are impassable.
According to Hammond, training is taken very seriously because the equipment transported is needed to conduct HADR operations, including water purification and food distribution.
“External lifts require precision, attention to detail and strict holding to safety standards, every time,” said Hammond. “We take this training seriously because in a real-world situation that requires these lifts, lives are often hanging in the balance.”