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Helo squadron trains pilots, aircrew in Yuma skies

By Lance Cpl. Aaron Diamant | | March 11, 2010

Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif., spent two weeks here training its pilots and aircrew in Cobra and Huey helicopters Feb. 22, 2010, through March 5, 2010.

The detachment sent to Yuma consisted of 293 personnel and 22 aircraft, including 12 AH-1W Cobras, seven UH-1N Hueys and three UH-1Y Venoms, logging more than 600 flight hours.

The Marines performed flight familiarization training and maintenance operations, as well as practiced weapons delivery tactics.

New aircrew members are trained in the operation of the various aircraft flown by the squadron while also adjusting crewmen to operate in an unfamiliar environment.

HMLA/T-303 trains annually in Yuma, said Capt. Patrick Sise, squadron operations officer.

“It allows us to expose squadron personnel to a different working environment with established transient squadron support facilities,” said Sise.

The squadron was also able to take advantage of Yuma’s predominately good flying weather, as well as its access to a variety of range complexes.

The new environment poses some of the challenges aircrew could face while deployed.

“It lets us see what it’s like to operate without all the logistics we’re used to,” said Gunnery Sgt. Aaron Jameson, HMLA/T-303 crew chief instructor.

While in Yuma, the aircrews complete various sections of their continuous training syllabus, including live weapons training.

Pilots and crew members practiced flight formations and landed in the Picacho State Recreation Area in California to simulate a combat environment.

The pilots and ordnance Marines used the south combat aircraft loading area here to receive rockets and rounds for machine guns and the rotary wing fuel pits to practice hot refueling prior to live weapons flights.

After receiving their compliment of weapons, pilots flew to Yodaville, an urban target complex on the Barry M. Goldwater Range.

There, pilots engaged simulated enemies in the town with the mounted 12.75-inch rockets, while the crew chiefs used GAU-16 .50-caliber machine guns, miniguns and M-240 machine guns mounted on the sides of the Hueys to engage vehicles and buildings in the complex.

Pilots and crews made the most of the time they had here, performing hot seat exchanges, which involves leaving the aircraft running while the new crew takes the place of the previous crew flying the aircraft.

“Coming to Yuma provides us with an opportunity to see something different than the normal ranges we use in Camp Pendleton,” said Jameson.

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