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.
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.
One of several uncomfortable positions mechanics assume during Full Rigs
The Sergeant Major on the prowl
Pushing a several-hundred-pound rollaway toolbox
The start of a job
Discussing Staff NCO things
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.
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
As an example, the standard HMH-772(-) squadron logo
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.
The basis for the deployment shoulder patch
SSgt. Hensley, Airframes, showing his enthusiasm for the camera
I think a CH-53E is an authorized vehicle…
Morning maintenance meeting
The giant Cicada that tried to eat Chad Jones
The ubiquitous Japanese coffee and drink vending machines. There is never one more than 50 feet away.
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.
SSgt Garcia, Airframes
Progress to be made
Birds’ eye view
This green container and concrete barrier is essentially the Flightline shop
Flightline about to leave work
The first week of hectic maintenance brought with it a good introduction to fixing planes in the humid conditions coupled with the lack of logistical support. I felt as if we were better equipped in the remote wasteland of Afghanistan than we are in Okinawa, at an air station that has had helicopters for decades. The simple explanation is — the base was not ready for us: no hangar, scavenging support equipment, and almost everyone spending the entire day outside. I would be tempted to say I’d choose Afghanistan any day over this, as far as working conditions went.
We went ahead anyway and charged headfirst into rebuilding the first helicopter after it stood ‘broken down’ after C-5 transport.