Shhhhhhh….. She’s sleeping…….
Shhhhhhh….. She’s sleeping…….
…And so after 6 short months I bid adieu to the island of Okinawa…
Farewell Futenma flightline,
Bye bye beautiful beaches, and the snorkeling that went with them,
So long seaside sunsets, with your rich dusk colors,
Goodbye drink vending machines that I could find on every street corner,
Au revoir Orion beer, which is only found on Okinawa,
Adios vodka tonics from Panic Bar (and the associated hangovers the next morning),
Have a nice life Habu Trail, for the countless miles I trampled over you have finished,
Until we meet again, endless open Ocean.
As we prepare to depart Okinawa to return home, these final glimpses appeared before my camera lens.
A (mostly Flightline) Thanksgiving dinner in one of the barracks
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.
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.
…..and Goofing off
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.
SNCO Van. The Gunny at work
Flightline shop Van
Stanley in the corner
Turning the camera diagonally was the only way to fit the C-130’s wingspan into the picture
Passengers out the side; cargo out with a forklift
I’ll be damned, one of the few photos of me
What bored Marines do when we couldn’t find our computer… make one out of a wooden box
Wolf and Clinger replacing a tail disconnect component
Tail Pylon detail
Rain on the horizon
Venting out the fuel vapor fumes
Fuel Cell maintenance
Wolf, draining out the last drops
Futenma flightline sunset
Super Stallion framed by light
Same as above, but achieved a silhouette effect
Two Cobras and a Super Stallion
Thanks Gunny. Not everybody loves the camera
I felt like a wildlife photographer taking this picture through the bushes, of a helicopter in the ‘wild’
Portrait of Russell showing off his close-cropped moustache
The AMO showing up for the morning maintenance meeting
FOD walk, while the sun was still low in the sky
After a rain shower
I liked the conflicting angles of this view toward the tail
Rotorheads appearing through the wavy heat rising up from the curve in the flightline
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.
Flightline shop on the move
The “color bird” of HMM-262, the Flying Tigers
Sgt Armstrong, H-1 Mechanic
Tail and Rotor Head
Avionicsman working under Cobra
A “Phrog” and a “Shitter”
This was supposed to work out much better… I was trying to ‘hold’ the CH-53 in my hands like a platter
Stanley supporting a CH-46 by his index finger
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.
Troubleshooting an engine
Watching from the shade
Crew Chief, SSgt Jones, ready to turn-up
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
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.