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Twentynine Palms infantry, New River Ospreys team up in Yuma for helo raid

By Gunnery Sgt. Bill Lisbon | | October 12, 2009

Launching from the flight line here, a platoon of infantry Marines specializing in helicopter raids completed its first exercise from an MV-22 Osprey on Oct. 10, 2009.

Taking advantage of the helicopter training in Yuma’s current Weapons and Tactics Instructors course, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, is using the robust training opportunities here to sharpen its skills for an upcoming deployment.

“We get a lot of experience working with the pilots in the planning process,” said 2nd Lt. Mitchell B. Steen, 1st Platoon commander.

After loading on to two Ospreys, the 39-man platoon flew to an urban training range in Twentynine Palms, Calif., in order to capture an insurgent leader, simulating a mission they could be asked to perform.

The battalion, based in Twentynine Palms, is scheduled to deploy with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in early 2010, with E Company assigned to specialize in helicopter insertions and raids.

With the deployment approaching, the company has incorporated helicopter-related training into much of its preparations, said Steen. Marines have already learned how to fast rope and rappel from helos and how to escape from one if it crashes into water. The squad leaders also completed a raid leaders course.

The platoon used some of the morning before the flights to practice simply boarding and exiting the Osprey. While similar to the Corps’ CH-46 helicopter, the MV-22 uses four-point harnesses instead of simple lap seat belts, which can slow down loading times, said Staff Sgt. Nicholas L. McCulloch, crew chief with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 based in New River, N.C.

For many members of the company’s 1st Platoon, the ride in the Corps’ tilt-rotor aircraft was their first. Some were skeptical … until the end of the mission.

“After seeing how they operate and what they can do for us, it’s a better tool than what we’ve had in the past,” said Staff Sgt. Harold Young, platoon sergeant.

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