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Red Line
31st MEU has 'Super' power
Submitted by: 31st MEU
Story Identification #: 20061240344
Story by Cpl. Will Lathrop Red Line

Aboard USS Essex (LHD-2), 24 January 2006 — The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has increased its flight, airlift and aircraft defense capabilities this deployment cycle with the addition of CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters as part of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262 (Reinforced), the MEU's aviation combat element.

For the last couple of years, the ACE has been supporting the MEU with CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters, and while they are reliable aircraft, they don't possess all of the capabilities as the newer version, according to Gunnery Sgt. Enrique Gauthier, an Argentinean native and quality assurance representative for the ACE.

"The Echo (CH-53E) has three times the lift capability as the Delta version," he said, "And with almost double the fuel load (of the CH-53D), has a longer range."

Of course, power and endurance aren't the only advantages of the Super Stallion, it's tactically a better aircraft due to an added gun mount on the rear ramp and ballistic matting that is spread throughout the aircraft for added protection against small-arms, said Staff Sgt. Victor Fusco, an East Windsor, Conn. native and ACE maintenance controller.

"The added mount for the M3M .50-caliber heavy machinegun allows the rear gunner to support either side of the aircraft, as well as put rounds straight out the back," Fusco explained.

The MEU is a rapid-response force, and the Super Stallions enhance the MEU's capabilities by lifting more and traveling farther, directly affecting the shock-troop effect of helo-borne raids and expediting tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel missions, added Gauthier.

The Super Stallion's return to the MEU has been a smooth transition for the shipboard sailors who transfer the large helicopters below decks and also launch and land the aircraft from the flight deck of the USS Essex.

"The 'Yellow Shirts' have been really capable and flexible working with the Echos," said Gauthier talking about the sailors.

"We thought the refueling probe that sticks out from the nose (of the CH-53E) might present a problem to the sailors who taxi the birds around, but we haven't had a single incident."

Gauthier also stated that it was much easier to work on the aircraft on ship because all of the supplies and parts they needed were right below decks, not across a flight line or the other side of an airbase.

"This isn't like other Marine bases where you have different squadrons dipping their hands into the same supply jar," he said.

The maintenance crews who work on the helicopters have added to the novelty of the Super Stallions by reassembling them in a short amount of time upon the aircraft's arrival to Okinawa, Japan.

"Four of these birds were disassembled in Miramar, California, then boxed up and flown over here, and in what would normally take four weeks, these guys did in less than three," Gauthier said proudly. "These are a great group of guys who work well together."

Most recently, the flight crews and their Super Stallions have been performing deck landing qualifications off of the USS Essex.

The USS Essex, along with the rest of the Sasebo Forward Deployed Amphibious Readiness Group are currently in Guam where the MEU will disembark and conduct its exercises called "Training in an Urban Environment" or "TRUEX" and "MEU Exercise" or "MEUEX" from 23 January - 13 February at various locations on the island of Guam.

Story provided by U.S.M.C.

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Updated: 01 February 2013
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Born on 22 April 2006