Vietnamese delegates tour Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay

Vietnamese delegates tour Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay

9-Jun-2011 Source: US Marine Corps

A Vietnamese delegation visited Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay June 7 to gain a better understanding of how the air station maintains 40-year-old Vietnam-era CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters.

Lt. Gen. Trần Quang Khuê, deputy chief of the general staff, People’s Army of Vietnam, was one of five Vietnamese delegates invited by U.S. Pacific Command to Hawaii to explore and engage in various military search and rescue and disaster management procedures in hopes of expanding their own capabilities.

“We look to build and encourage our military to military relationship with the Vietnamese,” said Maj. John E. Sampson, Vietnam policy officer, policy and international affairs department, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. “Today, we’re exchanging ideas on force sustainment.”

The delegates took a tour of Hangar 101 here where a CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter was on display. With the help of a translator, Khuê asked Chief Warrant Officer 2 David S. Westhoff questions about basic maintenance procedures.

Westhoff, the maintenance material control officer for the squadron, explained the CH-53Ds are designed to last for finite flight hours but with proper maintenance, life expectancy extensions and rigorous testing, the aircraft remains as a viable heavy-lift asset for military operations.

“I didn’t know such an old aircraft could be maintained this long and still be used during operations,” Khuê said.

The first CH-53D assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay was commissioned on Dec. 19, 1969. Subsequently, that same helicopter was retrieved and repaired after it crashed in Vietnam on Oct. 10, 1970. Today, it is still fully operational as a part of HMH-362’s fleet.

Khuê was shown a photo of the downed helicopter and then briefed on how the squadrons order necessary parts from their maintenance control division to repair the Sea Stallions. Most of the CH-53Ds are approaching 40 years in service with each airframe accumulating approximately 10,000 flight hours.

“It really surprised me how things run here because in our minds, an aircraft will usually only last 20 to 25 years,” Khuê said. “[The Marines] have an excellent method of ordering parts, especially with the complex software.”

The Marine Corps’ supply chain system and continuous maintenance on aircraft, prolongs the serviceability and reduces life-cycle costs.

The CH-53Ds have been used in every major conflict since the Vietnam War, according to Staff Sgt. Andrew T. White, a quality assurance representative and crew chief at HMH-362.

“I love these helicopters,” White said. “They’re true and reliable. In fact, some of the newer Marines talk about how their parents flew in these [helicopters] when they were just getting into the Marine Corps.”

The delegation’s visit to MCAS ended with a tour of the air traffic control tower. The group also plans to visit Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam while on the island of Oahu.

“This visit was a very good lesson in using the right procedures and techniques to maintain what you already have,” Khuê said. “I was even more surprised that the aircraft was older, but still in very good condition. I look forward to more experiences with the Marines in the future.”

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