Hawaii Marine base rehearsing for event
|Photo gallery: Blues on the Bay|
|Video: Marines, SEALs practice pilot rescue tactics|
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAI'I — It was a scene out a war movie:
Two sailors are stranded behind enemy lines. A helicopter flies overhead. Two parachutists leap from the chopper, steering their chutes to a grassy area hundreds of feet below to help save the men.
This Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel maneuver is standard practice for Marines and sailors on rescue missions.
It's one of the demonstrations that will be part of the 2007 Blues on the Bay this weekend at the Kane'ohe base.
All this week, military personnel are practicing the special maneuvers that will help attract an expected 100,000 people this weekend to the event, featuring an air show by the famed Blue Angels.
"We want to showcase the capabilities of our Marines and sailors," said Maj. Matt Collins, air show coordinator and Marine pilot. "This is just a small piece of what people will see."
Partly, these demonstrations serve as a recruiting tool for the military. The more impressive the public demonstration, the more interest it may generate.
"You ask men and women in uniform and they'll say it was an air show that got them interested," Collins said.
Earlier this month, the Marine Corps announced it had met its annual target for recruiting and retaining troops despite the dangers of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Reuters.
The Marine Corps said it had exceeded its goal of growing its ranks to 184,000 in the same fiscal year and now has 186,000 Marines.
Yesterday's rehearsal featured Navy SEALS and Marines practicing on a base runway that will serve as the center of this weekend's show.
Two CH-53 Sea Stallions soared over the runway to get into position.
One dropped two Navy SEALS to be "rescued." They landed with a thud on a small strip of grass about 400 feet wide.
Another chopper flew overhead, releasing two other sailors in precision chutes from about 1,200 feet. They maneuvered their chutes toward an orange X on the grassy area. Both managed to land fairly close to the target.
The two helicopters returned, hovering about 50 feet up. About a dozen sailors and Marines — sans guns — slid down ropes to secure the perimeter.
A few minutes later, one chopper landed, and most of the men scurried on board.
The other deployed a Special Purpose Insertion Extraction rope to pick up the remaining four men.
They clipped themselves onto the rope and dangled from the helicopter as it took off, traveling at about 90 knots over Kane'ohe Bay.
The one thing missing: huge walls of fire and explosions, which will be part of the show over the weekend.
"Oh, there'll be lots of good fire and explosions," Collins said. "We'll have the things that get pyromaniacs in the crowd excited."
Reach Catherine E. Toth at email@example.com.