TAMPA, FL --
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 464 trained in Florida to become more proficient in expeditionary advance base operations, Nov. 22 – Dec. 11, 2021.
Expeditionary advance base operations is a Navy and Marine Corps concept approved by the chief of naval operations and commandant of the Marine Corps in 2019. The EABO concept allows Marines the opportunity to employ with mobile, low-signature, operationally relevant, and sustainable expeditionary forces from a series of austere, temporary locations within contested maritime areas to conduct sea denial or support sea control.
HMH-464 operated out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina; MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida; Homestead Air Reserve Base in Homestead, Florida; and Naval Air Station Key West in Key West, Florida, to familiarize the squadron in EABO tactics, techniques and procedures and to operate in a littoral environment.
“The purpose for this [deployment for training] is to showcase the capabilities of the heavy-lift asset and how we can function the best within EABO concepts to support infantry and other functions of Marine aviation,” said Capt. Whitley Noel, a CH-53E pilot with HMH-464.
The locations provided different terrain features for training, such as Key West, which has scattered islands to challenge the Marines in executing EABO concepts. The various terrain also supported different training iterations, like air delivered ground refueling with U.S. Navy Search and Rescue, and the concept of dispersed operations over hundreds of miles.
“The center of this DFT is wrapped around the ability to command and control with a hub-and-spoke concept,” said Noel. “Between here at MacDill AFB, where we have our hub and primary [Tactical Control Center] at the squadron level, and then controlling the operations that are occurring in MCAS New River, Homestead ARB, and NAS Key West.”
The training presented many challenges for the Marines to overcome while learning EABO concepts. Marines of HMH-464, nicknamed the “Condors,” presented new ideas and concepts to complete mission plans with a limited digital footprint while still operating with full capabilities for the squadron. Marines with Marine Wing Communications Squadron (MWCS) 28, contributed to the task by teaching the squadron how to operate radios and other equipment the Condors were unfamiliar with previously.
“Working from multiple different sites, and keeping a daily battle rhythm the same as if we were in the rear, presented its challenges just due to internet connectivity, the way we communicated our needs from one another and with our supply system,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Daffin, an avionics officer with HMH-464. “However, we had to integrate individuals in other augments to be able to make that truly work.”
The Marines of HMH-464 and other units of 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing returned from Florida to North Carolina with more than 190 flight hours with 8 different aircraft and zero mishaps. The Condors experienced adversity and are ready to move forward and continue to train for the future fight.
“The Condors are hungry to tackle the complex problem sets,” said Noel. “We stand ready to deploy on short notice and are leading the way within the expeditionary advance base operations.”
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