|Evacuation exercise during WTI|
Marines conduct special evacuation exercises twice a year as part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course, currently in session through November at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
|WTI as seen from above|
Take a flight on a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter, with reporter James Gilbert and other members of the media and community leaders during Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course taught by MAWTS-1, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.
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First helicopter wasn't like standing on a paint can shaker
I've been fortunate enough to have ridden in a lot of different types of vehicles and airplanes over the years as part of my job as a reporter.
But the one thing I have always wanted to do was to fly in a helicopter. Well, that finally happened Friday, thanks to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1 (MAWTS-1).
All I can say it was an amazing experience. As part of this fall's Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course taught by MAWTS-1, which is based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, I was invited to take a flight on a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter, along with several other members of the media and community leaders.
Used by the Marines to transport troops and lift and carry heavy loads of cargo, it is simply the biggest and baddest helicopter in the U.S. military. While you may not immediately know which helicopter I'm referring to, if you have lived in Yuma for any length of time you probably have seen them flying around on more than one occasion, especially this time of year.
If you have ever gone to watch any of the noncombatant evacuation exercises held in April and October as part of the course, they are the big gray helicopters that land in the park to drop off the Marines.
Although it was a short 30-minute flight around Yuma and the Foothills, it was awesome nonetheless. It got even better when the flight crew lowered the back ramp on the helicopter and latched us to the floor with a strap so we could hang out the back to get some great video and pictures.
A shout-out also goes to the pilots and crew of the helicopter, who are with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465. Their squadron, known as Warhorse, is based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, who took great care of us in flight and made sure we had a safe ride.
A funny side note is that while we were at MCAS Yuma waiting for the flight, I was talking with Gunnery Sgt. Dustin Dunk and he was sharing with me some of his thoughts on helicopters.
He was telling me about how they were always leaking fluids, and when he asked the crew about it, they told him they always leak.
Needless to say, as a car guy who grew up working on his own cars, Dunk said he initially had a hard time grasping that concept because, at least in cars, when something is leaking, it will eventually run out of fluid, and when it does, something bad usually happens. Thankfully the same doesn't hold true for helicopters.
Later, when I got back to the office to write this, I noticed that I had two blackish/brownish spots on one leg of my jeans. Guess I was sitting beneath one of the leaks at some point during the flight.
We were told that we needed to stay seated until we were in flight, but once we were airborne we could move around, which I wasted no time doing.
When I first boarded, and not knowing any better, I got a seat near the middle of the helicopter. Needless to say, the moment I could, I moved to the very last seat, right next to the lowered rear ramp. What an amazing view it provided. It was actually quite breathtaking. Yuma really looks a lot different from the air.
Something else I didn't really expect was just how smooth a ride it was. Gunnery Sgt. Dunk, who had flown only on the CH-46, which is the other helicopter the Marine Corps uses, said riding in one of those was like standing on a paint shaker at a hardware store. That cracked me up.
Eventually we had to return to the air station, but I remember thinking after riding in a helicopter, why would you want to fly any other way?
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854.
One thing I have always wanted to do was to fly in a helicopter. Well, that finally happened Friday, thanks to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-1. As part of this fall's Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) course, I was invited to take a flight on a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter. The CH-53 is used by the Marine Corps to transport troops and lift and carry heavy loads of cargo. It is simply the biggest and baddest helicopter in the U.S. military.
We were told that we needed to stay seated until we were in flight, but that once we were airborne we could move around, which I wasted no time doing. Cpl. Patterson, with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, a member of the helicopter's flight crew, latched us to the floor with a strap once the rear ramp was lowered so we could get some fantastic aerial footage and pictures.
Flight crew member Cpl. Patterson, with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 (HMH-465), looks at some agriculture fields from the rear door of a CH-53 helicopter during a flight on Friday afternoon.