Posts tagged ‘Futenma’

Sayonara Okinawa

…And so after 6 short months I bid adieu to the island of Okinawa…

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Farewell Futenma flightline,

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Bye bye beautiful beaches, and the snorkeling that went with them,

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So long seaside sunsets, with your rich dusk colors,

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Goodbye drink vending machines that I could find on every street corner,

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Au revoir Orion beer, which is only found on Okinawa,

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Adios vodka tonics from Panic Bar (and the associated hangovers the next morning),

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Have a nice life Habu Trail, for the countless miles I trampled over you have finished,

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Until we meet again, endless open Ocean.

Parting Shots

As we prepare to depart Okinawa to return home, these final glimpses appeared before my camera lens.

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A (mostly Flightline) Thanksgiving dinner in one of the barracks

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Inside the Refurbished Hangar and Shop Photo

We have a hangar, technically, but we aren’t allowed to move into it or perform maintenance in it. The only purpose of the hangar so far has been to shelter the CH-53’s and Cobras inside when the base is at risk from a typhoon. When we stuffed the hangar with all our planes recently, I slowly walked through the quiet open space, taking pictures.

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Traditionally, there usually is a squadron and/or shop photo associated with a deployment. Instead of making a mundane shop photo wearing our cammies after the squadron picture, we did ours several days later dressed in our usual working wear of oil-stained coveralls and flight suits. A driving idea behind these shop photos is the aircraft we used had no rotor blades yet, sort of a summary of the difficult battle we’ve had with the helicopters the entire deployment.
Also one trend I’ve noticed over the years is to take one serious-looking picture as well as one with any manner of ridiculous poses. We did both styles for the two different setups.

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Normal

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Goofing off

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Normal….

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…..and Goofing off

Work Spaces

Instead of working in a traditional hangar, our lack thereof forced us to keep our tools and computers in interlinked white containers called vans. There is something about the sterile quality, and the muted, cool-tone walls that reminded me of a ship. I took several photos of the area over the past several months. The truth is, though, we are hardly ever in them except for a few minutes in the morning, and the last few minutes of the workday before we leave in the evening.

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SNCO Van. The Gunny at work

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Intersection

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Medlicott

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Flightline shop Van

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Barnes posing

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Stanley in the corner

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Work Randomness #5

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Turning the camera diagonally was the only way to fit the C-130’s wingspan into the picture

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Passengers out the side; cargo out with a forklift

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I’ll be damned, one of the few photos of me

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What bored Marines do when we couldn’t find our computer… make one out of a wooden box

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Wolf and Clinger replacing a tail disconnect component

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Tail Pylon detail

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Rain on the horizon

Fuel Cells and Sunsets

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Venting out the fuel vapor fumes

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Fuel Cell maintenance

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Wolf, draining out the last drops

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Futenma flightline sunset

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Super Stallion framed by light

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Same as above, but achieved a silhouette effect

Work Randomness #4

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Two Cobras and a Super Stallion

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Thanks Gunny. Not everybody loves the camera

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I felt like a wildlife photographer taking this picture through the bushes, of a helicopter in the ‘wild’

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Portrait of Russell showing off his close-cropped moustache

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The AMO showing up for the morning maintenance meeting

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FOD walk, while the sun was still low in the sky

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After a rain shower

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I liked the conflicting angles of this view toward the tail

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Rotorheads appearing through the wavy heat rising up from the curve in the flightline

Flying Pictures

We have not been doing much flying, so I’ll put some photos up from several weeks before.

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The Kerama Islands

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Inside the cockpit

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Rocky outcroppings

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Small island settlements

From (Red) Lions to Tigers

So, the last remaining CH-46 squadron here, HMM-262, the Flying Tigers, was slated to turn into an Osprey squadron not long after our arrival, and one morning in mid-August a large gaggle of the ungainly-looking helicopters flew in. I expected the Ospreys sooner or later, but what shocked me was the squadron that the aircraft and people came from.
I quickly recognized the lion’s head emblazoned on the tail fins and the “Y Z” tail code, and written on the fuselages was VMM-363. It was kind of like a swift kick in the nuts to my psyche, seeing these aircraft I’m not very fond of with my old unit’s designation. Not that it’s the same as my 363, HMH-363, since it turned into a unit with completely different people and aircraft in a different location, but sucked nonetheless. Of course, I also received the expected jokes from some of the other more senior guys here since they knew I was a Red Lion, and I had recently put a Red Lion patch on the front of my cranial. “I didn’t know you were a V-22 guy” was probably the most common one I heard the first few days, among some others.
Of course they won’t stay as 363 and once the 262 redesignation takes place, these Ospreys will be marked as VMM-262, with all the other Flying Tigers logos and such.

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Sucks to see these old aircraft go

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A proper Red Lion aircraft (January 2011, ‘Lava Viper’ at PTA, Hawaii)

First Flight

Long delayed (it has been 2 months, not going to get into details) our squadrons first CH-53E flight occurred. I could only help out testing the planes from the ground so this was my first taste of soaring past the island from above. Only a couple photographs were taken since I was preoccupied with getting ‘back in the saddle’ as far as flying was concerned. These were taken not over Okinawa itself, but near one of the small outlying islands.

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A Trip to the Patch Shop

After learning about a patch-making store that almost every Marine aviation unit has used during their time on Okinawa, I knew there had to be some nice old patches from HMH-363. Most of the Crew Chiefs and Mechanics that taught me when I was a boot in 363 had deployed to Oki with the squadron once or twice, and fellow Kaneohe Bay 53D squadrons 362 and 463 had been there several times. In fact the store, called Tiger Embroidery, is apparently the “go to” place for all military units (American, Japanese, and other foreign nations) to make ‘det’ patches. They keep stacks of previously printed patches as what I assume were extras. Some patches were pretty old; I noticed one 363 patch referencing being on Okinawa in 1991 when Desert Storm was taking place elsewhere, I refrained from buying it though. I did not, however, refrain from buying all the other HMH-363 and CH-53D patches I could find. For me, it was like being a kid in a candy store.

Here are some of the patches I found, and if any old 363 people want me to pick up a patch for them send me an e-mail: drtorrellas@gmail.com

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Kinda cool, but too big and awkward of a shape to actually wear

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A strange ‘blacked out’ version of the standard HMH-363 patch

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I believe this one is from the 1980’s

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My favorite patches, something tells me this is from 363’s 2002 or 2004 deployment to Okinawa

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Also a good one

Work Randomness #3

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Flightline shop on the move

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The “color bird” of HMM-262, the Flying Tigers

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Futenma tower

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Sgt Armstrong, H-1 Mechanic

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Cobra maintenance

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Tail and Rotor Head

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Avionicsman working under Cobra

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A “Phrog” and a “Shitter”

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This was supposed to work out much better… I was trying to ‘hold’ the CH-53 in my hands like a platter

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Stanley supporting a CH-46 by his index finger

Turnin’ for the First Time

Well, after a long and arduous process of rebuilding the aircraft after being transported halfway around the world our unit finally had two helicopters turn-up for check flights on the same day. The anticipation of all the maintenance personnel was palpable, especially after weeks of busting our knuckles fixing CH-53’s that had not flown or moved since we arrived.

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Troubleshooting an engine

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Watching from the shade

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Crew Chief, SSgt Jones, ready to turn-up

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Random Photos from Around the Island

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Umbrella vending machine

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A group of girls wanted to have their picture taken, so naturally they were pounced upon by a dozen Japanese guys with cameras. I just wanted to be a witness to the hilarity.

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A Banana Spider. Obviously not the scientific name for these arachnids that I see everywhere in dense jungle growth. This one pictured is actually on the smaller side. I’ve seen a few with a leg span equal to that of my hand with fingers outstretched. Once I almost walked headfirst into one (they blend in easier than you think), and they get kind of territorial and pissed-off, facing you and standing on their back 4 legs with the front 4 up and toward you. As big and mean as they seem, I would still take a Banana spider over a Camel Spider any day.

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I only wanted to take a photo of the stone monument; the duck had other ideas and began his slow charge toward me. And why is his head half red, like a Turkey??

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Habu Cats. Okinawa is full of stray, mangy cats. We started calling them ‘Habu’ cats within a week of our arrival. Habu really means the Okinawan viper snake, but dozens of things on the Marine bases are called ‘Habu-something’, like the Habu Pit (Staff NCO/Officers Club) and the Habu Trail (running path around the Futenma air base). The name stuck.

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Gee….thanks Brad Pitt

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View from Kadena Marina facing the Kerama Islands

Hangar Reconstruction

Not being located in any type of hangar whatsoever is one of the challenges we have been faced with. And while the odds are our squadron will be gone by the time it is completed, there is a small hangar being refurbished just next to where we work. I found myself curious and observed the Japanese construction workers perform their duties. So far, they have been very quiet, even though they usually have a crane truck parked right next to our Flightline shop container/base of operations, and they all wear these nifty-looking two-toed “ninja shoes”. I wonder if they pause and watch what we do on the helicopters in the same manner that I observe them.

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Everybody’s Workin’ for the Weekend

I always think of that dumb song when I have to work a weekend. Thanks to Cody Mitchell for that, he would always play the song on the shop radio back in HMH-363’s Flightline shop in Hawaii when there was even the remote chance we might have to work that weekend. Play time was over here, though. We had our fun and our helicopters still needed a lot of work before we could start flying, including some nonsense like pedal popping and full rigs. Honestly, I expected to work a majority of the weekends so having to only do 3 or 4 so far is not bad.

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Full Rig

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One of several uncomfortable positions mechanics assume during Full Rigs

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The Sergeant Major on the prowl

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Pushing a several-hundred-pound rollaway toolbox

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The start of a job

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Discussing Staff NCO things

Deployment Patches

Finally got our ‘det’ squadron patch for HMH-772(-) Rein. We had to incorporate the important elements of 1) being in Japan, and 2) being a mixed CH-53 and Cobra squadron. It was designed by our very own Flightline Marine, Tristan Clinger.

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CH-53E Super Stallion and AH-1W Cobra in foreground, island of Okinawa in front of rising sun theme (black and red, colors of our Cobra guys from HMLA-167). The sun even has a crack in it like the Liberty Bell on the regular 772 logo

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As an example, the standard HMH-772(-) squadron logo

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The Cobra detachment that combined with us, from 167

Not that I cared to wear it, but they had shoulder patches made. I guess shoulder patched are bigger with Huey and Cobra units than the rest of the Marine Corps helicopter community. Most of the Cobra guys arrived wearing the 167 shoulder patch “Have Guns Will Travel”. Somebody here bastardized it to reflect our combined unit with 53’s in front of the Cobras, of course.

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167 patch

The basis for the deployment shoulder patch

Independence Day

Like the rest of America, we celebrated the Fourth of July with beer, barbecue, the outdoors, and swimming. Once again we had the whole 15 person Flightline shop come together for this. Our little slice of America discovered Kadena Marina for the first time and loved it. Can you believe it, the Air Force base here actually owns the beach. Which is fine, all Americans and Okinawans can use it but the Marines never have any nice pieces of real estate, we get the scraps. Enough ranting on my part, I think everyone had a good time. Even got to jump off of the small rocky island that sits in the middle of the marina. Happy Birthday America.

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Our setup

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McClernon and Stanley high five

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Spontaneous Volleyball game

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Keep flexing Gunny….it still doesn’t make your gut go away

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One of the only pictures where I’m actually on the other side of the lens

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Nothing like sitting in the grass on a warm evening sipping on a beer

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Dusk

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Two swimmers at dark

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Work Randomness #2

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SSgt. Hensley, Airframes, showing his enthusiasm for the camera

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I think a CH-53E is an authorized vehicle…

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Morning maintenance meeting

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FOD walk

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The giant Cicada that tried to eat Chad Jones

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The ubiquitous Japanese coffee and drink vending machines. There is never one more than 50 feet away.

Oh yeah… we have Cobras too…

As a mixed squadron/composite squadron, whatever you want to call it, we are half CH-53’s and half AH-1 Cobras. My picture taking during work has predominantly been spent on the Super Stallions, so I decided I should show some of our ‘little brothers’ too.

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