Marines with Medium Helicopter Squadron-764 joined forces with 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company Marines in a tactical insertion exercise as part of Operation Javelin Thrust 2011, a reserve training exercise.
HMM-764 Marines geared up the two CH-46E Sea Knights for the operation. The mission involved a tactical insertion maneuver, which enables troops to be dropped in precise locations too small for traditional airplane landings.
“It’s a huge benefit,” said Sgt. Cedric V. Ruffin, HMM-764 crew chief. “It’s the difference between someone getting dropped off and getting right into a fight and having to walk 15 miles and then get into a fight.”
The CH-46, a medium-lift cargo helicopter, possesses the ability to hover while dropping Marines onto areas as small as buildings and from heights up to 90 feet. This is done through a technique called fast-roping.
In a fast-roping maneuver, a hatch is opened under the aircraft and a rope attached to the helicopter is dropped. Amidst a shower of rocks and sand kicked up by the Sea Knight, reconnaissance Marines then slide down the rope to the ground and engage enemy combatants.
“It’s the fastest way to get guys on the ground without having to actually land,” said Cpl. Stephen M. Conroy, a 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company Marine.
The CH-46 is additionally valuable because it can carry more cargo than traditional helicopters, but can land in tighter spaces with quicker stops and takeoffs than airplanes, said Sgt. Anthony M. King, HMM-764 crew chief. The aircraft can carry up to 5,000 pounds of troops and equipment, allowing for larger numbers of troops to be dropped in a particular area.
Once on the ground, the reconnaissance Marines search enemy locations for more information using intelligence already obtained.
“You can only get so much intelligence from the air,” said Sgt. Daniel A. Franklin, a 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company team leader. “On the ground it’s a whole different perspective. You can see how people are acting. Actually having humans out there gathering intelligence gives you a better perspective of what’s actually happening on the ground.”
Both 3rd Force Reconnaissance Marines and HMM-764 Marines will be engaging in multiple exercises as part of Javelin Thrust. The goal of the exercise is to develop unity among dispersed units toward a common goal: supporting the Marine Corps mission in a deployed environment.
“This exercise helps other units to utilize helicopters into their (Military Occupational Specialty) field,” said King. “That way they know how to use us and they know how to coordinate with us and interact with us. That’s very important.”
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