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HMM-265 sends practice rounds downrange

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  • HMM-265 sends practice rounds downrange
    Lance Cpl. Abigail M. Wharton

    IE SHIMA, Okinawa (June 26, 2009) -- A group of Marines sit in a circle cleaning weapons. It is evident by the sweat and dirt smudged on their faces they have just participated in something challenging. There is a sergeant in the group; he begins to question one of his Marines on the specifications of a weapon in front of them. His Marine answers all of the questions quickly and correctly. The group laughs and jokes about things that happened earlier that day while they scrub the weapons.

    Sgt. Michael J. Scheddel, a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter crew chief and weapons and tactics instructor, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, is the sergeant in the circle. He has been in the rotary-wing community for three and a half years. Scheddel flew in the lead helicopter instructing his crew during a day aerial gun shoot.

    A group of three helicopters, with call signs postal, pizzle and chesty, fired more than 4,500 rounds each at range W-174, a remote unoccupied island in the East China Sea. They were equipped with two side-mounted machine guns and an M240-G tail gun.

    "This kind of exercise keeps crew chiefs current with firing exercises," said Capt. Kenneth M. Zebley, co-pilot of a CH-46 with HMM-265. "These guys don't get too many opportunities to shoot a tail gun, so this is a good exercise for them," he said.

    The helicopters flew at various heights to simulate different combat situations and give the gunners more range to fire. They varied from 1,000 feet to 75 feet and included a landing profile which simulates landing in a combat situation. This mission was not to stress tactics, said Scheddel. It was more to familiarize Marines with the weapons and how they operate.

    "The crews of HMM-265 are interchangeable, so the live fire exercise gives them an opportunity to work together and improve as a unit," said Zebley.

    Lance Cpl. Jonathan B. Escobar said the exercise helps the unit grow closer and more proficient with the weapons. It gets smoother and faster every time you do it, he added.

    The crew is also the eyes and ears of the pilot, said Scheddel. They direct the pilot to the safest place to land and help him avoid obstacles that he can't see in the cockpit.

    There are several challenges the unit must address before they can conduct an operation like this. First, the crews have a set time they must get all the weapons ready. They can't start working on the weapons until a certain time before take off. They also need to make sure proper communications are made so the right ammunition is there for them when they pick it up en-route to the shoot. Then, when the crews begin firing there are many safety considerations, said Scheddel. After the exercise, the crews unload the brass and trash so new crews can re-launch for a night exercise.

    Escobar said his biggest challenge personally was, "maintaining optimum distance from other aircraft in order to safely put rounds on target." He feels the exercise was effective since the crew gets better and more confident every time they shoot.

    The goal of Zebley flying these exercises is to keep his crew chiefs current he said. Scheddel commented, I would like to see my Marines do their job correctly and come home safely every flight.
    Attached Files