COVENAS, Colombia -- Colombian Marines search the sky as they hear a loud commotion overhead. Within minutes, three CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters creep from the trees and land at the flight line as part of a joint subject matter expert exchange on Colombian Marine Corps Base Covenas in Colombia, Aug. 13.
Colombian Marines geared up in preparation to fly in CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters with U.S. Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774, Aviation Combat Element of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010, as part of a continued partnership between the two countries. Prior to their flight, Colombians learned how to enter and exit the aircraft and were given a safety brief by the U.S. Marines.
“Everything we taught the Colombian Marines is what we teach our U.S. Marines every day,” said Gunnery Sgt. Donald L. Fretwell, native of Richmond, Va., and staff noncommissioned officer in charge of flight equipment. “The Colombian Marines taught our Marines how they train, and we wanted to show them how we operate in aviation.”
U.S. Marines and Colombian Marines working together as one team was a morale booster for Fretwell. He said it helps build camaraderie between the two countries, and he enjoyed sharing his knowledge with the Colombians.
Not only did three CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters support the subject matter expert exchange with Colombian Marines, but HMM-774 pilots and crewmembers played a vital role in transporting approximately 145 USS Iwo Jima and Colombian personnel from ship to shore and shore to ship for the ten days spent in Covenas, Colombia. The squadron also transported 42,000 pounds of cargo and spent more than 95 hours in flight.
“Transporting individuals to the right place at the right time is what we’re here for,” said Fretwell. “When we landed in Colombia and had time to spare, we let Colombians get on the aircraft, and they were excited to see us and be inside the helicopter.”
The ACE has been the primary transportation for Continuing Promise 2010, said Lt. Col. Scott W. Grandgeorge, the commanding officer of HMM-774, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Norfolk, Va., based.
“Our Marines are doing a great job with every mission they’re given,” said Grandgeorge, native of Somonauk, Ill. “We all come together as a team and the mission allows us to perform at a level that the Marines never have. We don’t get the opportunity deploy as much as the other Marines do, with us being a reserve squadron. The Marines are very excited to be here.”