AL ASAD, Iraq -- In the final weeks of their deployment, the “Warhorse” lifted the “Blue Devils” into Al Anbar province in support of security and stabilization operations.
Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, were flown to a forward location by the rotors and Marines of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, Sept. 21. The squadron officially ended it's deployment with a transfer of authority ceremony Sept. 30. The squadron was relieved by HMH-466.
The Blue Devils of 3/504 PIR were deployed to the area to assist with security and stabilization efforts in anticipation of Iraq’s constitutional referendum Oct. 15, and national elections in December.
"We are here to ensure we help the local nationals live and experience the same liberties we have in the United States without being oppressed by terrorists,” said Army Capt. Mike Lee, a Blue Devils air officer and Colorado Springs, Colo., native. “These Soldiers took an oath to do this duty.”
The Warhorses, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., ferried the soldiers over the Iraqi desert in their CH-53E Super Stallions. The Super Stallions’ aircrews oversaw the loading and unloading of the soldiers, while keeping an eye on the helicopters’ security.
“Our duties are to ensure the troops get placed in the zone as safe and efficiently as possible,” said Sgt. Tim Hurt, a Warhorse crewmember and Murfreesboro, Tenn., native.
If keeping a 33,000 pound helicopter in the air is not perilous enough, shuttling combat troops into a combat zone adds extra pressure on the enlisted crew.
“I am in charge of the people in the back, arming and disarming the weapon and flares, backing up the pilots in troubleshooting mechanical problems and I am the pilots verbal reference to landing in any zone,” said Cpl. David Diaz, a crewmember and Tuscon, Ariz., native. “I am also in charge of calling picks in the event of a dual or single point load (during an external cargo lift), providing suppressive fire for defensive purposes in the event of enemy contact, the list goes on and on. Also the readiness, servicing and maintenance of the helicopter.”
While Marines readied the Super Stallions for flight, the soldiers cleaned their weapons, double-checked their gear and mentally readied themselves for what they would encounter when they exited the back of the Warhorse helicopters.
“Knowing that they are going into a combat operation shows them the purpose for all of their hard work and training,” Lee said. “They are ready for their mission and being assisted by Marines only adds to that readiness. Being on the same team means maintaining a high level of professionalism across the board. These Marines and soldiers are ready for their mission.”
When the wheels of a Super Stallion touched down in the Iraqi sand, a payload of troops hustled out the back and within minutes the Warhorse is back in the air with the next load already in mind.
“The feeling becomes pretty customary, as far as landing in the zone,” Hurt said. “New areas that we have not been to spark your attention because you sometimes go there not knowing what the conditions of the zone are.”
Convoys of troops can be easy targets for improvised explosive devices planted by insurgents, but Marines and soldiers can strike anytime, anywhere on the backs of the Warhorses.
“Our mission, and our squadron’s mission, is very important because we can move a lot of troops in a very short amount of time, and we can take them farther than any other rotor wing in the fleet,” Hurt said.