Photo Information

AL ASAD, Iraq (June 14, 20005) - Sgt. Evan A. Lavounty, airframes mechanic and native of Davis, Calif., wipes down the windows on a CH-53 Super Stallion during preflight checks.

Photo by Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

Warhorses soar past 40,000-hour safety milestone

14 Jun 2005 | Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

The Warhorses of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 have achieved a milestone several years in the making.

With mission accomplishment and safety on their minds, the Marines and sailors
of HMH-465 have flown 40,000 mishap free flight hours. Although, achievements in
flight hours are common in today's safety minded Corps, the 40,000 mark is no easy feat. 
The squadron not only sets a benchmark for other units to mirror they did it during a time
of war.

“It comes down to the fact that this squadron is filled with professional, hard
working Marines,” said Maj. John E. Dobes, squadron operations officer and native of
Elkton, Va. “They understand that their fellow Marines lives are on the line, and ensure
that every aircraft is safe before it leaves the ground.”

The squadron’s commander attributes the success of the Warhorses to the hard
work and dedication of each Marine in the squadron.

“It takes each and every part of this squadron to make this ‘factory’ continually
produce our capability,” said Lt. Col. Paul A. Pond, commanding officer and native of
Bishop, Calif., “We produce flyable aircraft to support the Marine Expeditionary Force,
and they do everything they can to get those aircraft safely up and flying.”

Currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the unique makeup of
the squadron has yielded a highly capable unit composed of Marines and sailors from six
different heavy helicopter squadrons.

Pulling Marines from Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C. and other
squadrons from Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar Cailf., this West Coast unit brought
expertise from both coasts to support their third deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“It’s all about a team,” Pond said. “No matter where they came from or where
they are going when they leave here, they are Warhorses now, and they are proud of that.
They take pride in knowing they can achieve these milestones, produce these hours, and
do it safely.”

“There was a little tension at first,” said Cpl. Robert S. Stackus, airframes
mechanic and native of Phoenix, Ariz. “Now, however, things are running smooth. We
are like one big family.”

At the heart of their impressive number of mishap free flight hours lays a
maintenance department dedicated to producing safe aircraft.

“It’s caring about what you do,” Pond said. “These Marines care about
accomplishing the mission, but are focused on safety at the same time. It drives them
crazy if a flight can’t go, yet, they won’t let it go if it’s not safe.”

“The strength of the flightline is the Marines who are out here each day
accomplishing the mission,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Villanueva, maintenance chief and
native of San Diego.

As the squadron builds on its success, they are continually providing support to
Operation Iraqi Freedom. Since their arrival in the middle of March, the squadron has
logged nearly 2,000 combat flight hours, hauled more than 1,600,000 pounds of
equipment and transported more than 6,000 passengers in support of on-going operations.

“The work ethic of our Marines is outstanding,” Dobes said. “Every Marine puts
forth 100 percent. No matter what it is, turning a wrench or keeping a logbook, they
know they all have an impact on the squadron’s success.”

“These Marines didn’t come out here to break records,” Villanueva said. “They
came out here to do their job, accomplish the mission and bring everyone home safe.”

*For more information about the Marines or news reported on in this
story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at defilippisrc@acemnf-*
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