Photo Information

Two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters sit in pieces in Hangar 101 March 17, 2015, while they are cleaned for an upcoming inspection later this month. Marines attached to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 prepared five aircraft to send to Marine Rotational Force Darwin, Australia later this year. It takes 1,500 man-hours per aircraft to make the aircraft inspection-ready.

Photo by Sgt. Sarah Dietz

Marines work to send aircraft to Australia

24 Mar 2015 | Sgt. Sarah Dietz U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific

It takes 1,500 hours of cleaning and nearly 20 days to complete breakdown, detailed cleaning, inspection and reassembly of one CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter – and the Marines of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 did it five times over.

This process is required when deploying aircraft to Marine Rotational Force-Darwin. The aircraft will be inspected by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to meet the environmental requirements of the Australian government.

Royal Australian Air Force Group Wing Commander Rohan Gaskill and Australian Consul-General Jeffrey Robinson toured the hangars aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii with HMH-463 March 17, 2015.

“The purpose of (the tour was) to share with our Australian partners the thoroughness of our efforts to prepare the aircraft and equipment for their upcoming deployment as part of the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin in the upcoming months,” said Lt. Col. Robert White, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific aviation operations officer.

The rotational deployment of Marines to Australia affords a combined training opportunity and improves interoperability between forces.

This level of detail in preparing the aircraft up front pays off. Any aircraft that fails the thorough inspection process must be prepared again for re-inspection.

“For the last three weeks, we have been pressure washing and vacuuming the inside of the aircraft; every nook and cranny,” said Cpl. Shawn Sandor, crew chief with HMH-463 and a native of North Haven, Connecticut. “We’ve been working 12 hours on, 12 hours off pretty steadily. The inspection is rigorous, so we need to be meticulous in our cleaning. (The Marines) show up at 6:30 every morning, get drenched from the pressure washers, and they will be that way until (6 p.m.) when we wrap up.”

The process is preparation for the unit’s participation in MRF-D, a bilateral training event that strengthens the Marine Corps’ relationship with Australian forces.

The rotational deployment in Darwin enables Marines to more effectively train, exercise and operate with partners, enhances regional security, and builds capacity to respond more rapidly to natural disasters and crises throughout the region.

“Being able to train and operate together with Australian forces in Australia and elsewhere is of great benefit to U.S. Marines (and to Australian forces),” said John Hennessey-Niland, MARFORPAC foreign policy advisor. “It really is a win-win.  This engagement is strongly supported by both governments and is an important element in maintaining peace and stability in the region. This preparatory work is an important investment in our bilateral relationship.”

Once the environmental inspection is complete and the CH-53Es are on the ground in Australia, it will take 10 to 20 days to assemble and test before the aircraft are approved to use for training.

“The Marines (of HMH-463) have been working very hard,” White said. “It has been an opportunity for them to come together as a team (to complete this mission).”

The work Marines are putting in to cooperate with environmental requirements of the Australian government illustrates the value the Marine Corps places on interoperability and combined capability of the Corps and Australian forces.