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U.S. Marines board a CH-53E Super Stallion rotary-wing aircraft at Aibano training area, Sept. 15, 2015. The aircraft provided assault transport during a bilateral air assault comprehensive exercise at Aibano Training Area. The exercise is part of Forest Light 16-1, an exercise to increase interoperability of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Marine Corps forces. U.S. Marines are with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment currently assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Mandaline Hatch

CH-53E aircraft supports ground forces with assault transport during Forest Light 16-1

29 Sep 2015 | Lance Cpl. Mandaline Hatch III Marine Expeditionary Force

Ground forces face difficult and unknown terrain every day. With every step, they risk detonating improvised explosive devices and enemy detection.

That is where aviation assault support comes into play. Instead of trudging across treacherous terrain for hours, ground troops can board a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter, load all of their cumbersome combat gear, and avail themselves of the aircraft's 73,500 pounds of maximum lift.

“We can provide a variety of heavy lifts in a much larger wave than any of the other rotary wing aircraft can,” said Sgt. Timothy E. Eboch, a crew chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462.

HMH-462, a Super Stallion squadron, practiced aviation assault support during a bilateral air assault exercise at Aibano Training Area, Japan, Sept. 15, 2015. The exercise was part of the larger training exercise Forest Light 16-1, which enhances interoperability between the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. Marine Corps.

The squadron deployed three CH-53s for the exercise, making a two-hour flight from Iwakuni to Aibano. Upon arrival, the CH-53s moved approximately 70 Marines between two training areas. The transportation facilitated training between Marines from 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and JGSDF members with 50th Infantry Regiment.

After the transporting the Marines, HMH-462 linked up with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 to refuel the CH-53s for the return flight to Iwakuni. The support squadron provided fuel at a forward arming and refueling point, or FARP, in the southern portion of the Aibano training area.

Sgt. Scott E. Nowling, a collateral duty quality assurance representative with HMH-462, explained the importance of a FARP.

“We can land and refuel quickly to become an asset for wherever they need us,” said the native of Plainfield, Indiana.

Eboch feels that the air support exercise was a step forward for everyone involved.

“Today went very smoothly,” he said. “The coordination was great between us and the ground units. It’s just another example of how, when we all work together, things work out well.”

HMH-462 is with Marine Aircraft Group 16, currently assigned to MAG 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. MWSS-171 is with MAG 12, 1st MAW, III MEF.