Posts tagged ‘photography’

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:

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

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

I believe this one is from the 1980’s

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

Also a good one

Work Randomness #3


Flightline shop on the move


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


Futenma tower


Sgt Armstrong, H-1 Mechanic


Cobra maintenance


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

Driving Around Aimlessly Leads Us to “Secret Beach”

Not having a destination in mind and my desire to explore led me to drive with Jones and Stanley onto some of the Okinawan islands that are located close enough to the main island that they are connected by a bridge. In contrast to most of our previous journeys, we traversed the eastern (Pacific) side of Okinawa instead of the western (East China Sea) half. One area we stopped at near the island-connecting bridge had this amazing feature where the water was only ankle deep for literally a mile out from shore. It was definitely different to be so far from shore and still standing with the ocean not even touching my thighs.

After navigating narrow, unknown roads, we came to the final tip of Ikei island and could go no further. Fortunately, we saw some parked cars and a few people mulling about in scuba gear; a beach had to be within walking distance. Past a sign that advised American service members to go no further, we happened upon a lightly used beach that was shallow out to 100 meters. In other words, perfect for snorkeling. We found no name for this spot, and due to the difficult nature of locating it and the secludedness, we proclaimed it “secret beach”.


Stopping near the bridges to the nearby islands


Shallow water stretched out as far as I could see



Crustacean remains


Stanley doing…. Stanley things


Visually impaired dog, Ikei Island


Colorful boat


Pathway through jungle to “secret beach”


Warning signs don’t turn me around, they encourage me to go further


Coral shelves, “secret beach”, Ikei Island

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.



Troubleshooting an engine


Watching from the shade


Crew Chief, SSgt Jones, ready to turn-up





Random Photos from Around the Island


Umbrella vending machine


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.


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.


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??


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.


Gee….thanks Brad Pitt


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.





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.


Full Rig


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

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.


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

HMH-772 logo

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

HMLA-167 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.


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.


Our setup


McClernon and Stanley high five


Spontaneous Volleyball game


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


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


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




Two swimmers at dark


Work Randomness #2


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


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


Morning maintenance meeting


FOD walk


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.

The Aquarium

The name of the place is Ocean Expo Park Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, but that’s a mouthful so I’ll just call it the Aquarium. Now that we have two personal vans for our Flightline shop, we packed them full and headed northward, then west to the tip of the Motobu Peninsula that juts out where the central third of the island meets the rural northern third. As the driver of one of the vans, I had a new appreciation of what school bus drivers put up with when driving unruly kids.

Since Okinawa is in the warm Pacific waters, I would not expect anything less than for the tanks to be filled with colorful and exotic marine life. Whale Sharks are one of the animals that dwell miles offshore of the island, and are a sort of mascot for Okinawa’s aquarium. Deep inside, there was an immense room that held an equally impressive tank that was large enough for several Whale Sharks to freely swim around and mingle with dozens of giant Manta Rays.


View of Ie Shima island from near the aquarium entrance


Posing on a Whale Shark made of flowers


Ummm…..Hello Mr.Crab



Some sort of clawless Lobster


Moments after I photographed this squid, I turned around and suddenly heard every Japanese person gasp with interest. When I looked back at the now crowded area around the squid, he had just inked.



The big tank


Whale Sharks




View from below

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.




Walking Kokusai street

Most cities have one, if not more, streets that are well-known and which people say, “you just have to go down this street.”

Naha, Okinawa’s largest city, has Kokusai street. It’s a kind of tourist destination, shopping haven, and bar/restaurant strip all rolled into one. Kokusai street even has its own small and covered side street that branches off, which was actually pretty big by itself since someone could probably spend two hours or more just in that one spot.


Kokusai Street


Did Stanley want to purchase this embalmed frog money pouch? Of course he did



The covered market


After all the noise and people, I sought out a quiet section


This was us figuring out how to pay the parking machine so it would unlatch a barrier from our car’s tires. Actually the funniest part of our day there was when we arrived and had to start the machine. It was entirely in Japanese and no parking lots in America worked in the same manner as this one so we pushed a bunch of buttons and, of course, nothing happened. Then an Okinawan man walked up to select his parking space and when he reached the machine, all 6 of us huddled around him to see the sequence of buttons he hit (it was green, yellow, red, I think??). When he turned around, he suddenly noticed he was surrounded by foreign Americans and there was a short awkward silence. He started walking away, then realized we couldn’t work the damned machine and came back and hit the buttons for us. That was when we understood how confused Europeans and Asians feel in our country.

Work randomness


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

Shuri Castle

Tropical islands and castles are not typically two things you find together. Okinawa is a little different, though.

There was once half a dozen or so fortified castles scattered among the jungles and ridges several hundred years ago. The castle’s remain as rocky ruins of walls, a mere footprint of what used to be. All except one — Shuri castle. It stood until the Battle of Okinawa during World War II, when the Japanese Army used the castle as a bunker and defensive line, and the fighting finally obliterated the landmark.

Eventually, the castle was reconstructed, building from what still remained in 1992 to re-create its heyday of the 1500’s.






These ducks wouldn’t stop following us


Getting off the base

At this point, no one had any type of vehicle yet, so I — and almost everyone else — had been essentially confined to base. Jones and Medlicott rented, on base, two of the tiniest cars I’ve ever been in. I was eager to leave the gates of MCAS Futenma like a greyhound at the starting line of a racetrack.

10 of us fit into the small cubes otherwise known as cars. We all had to buy snorkeling gear first and my thrifty ways led me to buy cheap equipment which I would come to regret a few weeks later. We stopped at a spot north of the bases on the western side of Okinawa (the East China Sea side). In 5 minutes I saw more fish than I could hope to see in an aquarium in a day. To be fair, a lot of the sea life was uninteresting creatures, like the multitudes of Sea Cucumbers I saw. They are just 4-10 inch black-colored cucumber-shaped blobs that sit still and don’t move. One or two people poked one with their foot, and they shoot out some white sludge (insert joke here).



Trust me, it’s a lot more cramped than it looks


Arriving at the unnamed and semi-secluded beach


Stanley actually caught a fish, he wouldn’t catch another for 2 months


Reflections and shadows at low tide

One build-up at a time

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.

Note the rolled up sleeves, everybody is trying to get their tan on

Disorganized disarray of a mess

Our neighbors on the flight line to the north; CH-46’s (HMM-262 “Flying Tigers”) and C-130’s (VMGR-152 “Sumos”)