US Marines join the humanitarian effort in Hawaii

Two CH-53E helicopters prepare to take off at Hilo International Airport, Hawaii
Volcanic fissures spurt out lava and toxic gas in Pahoa, Hawaii

The Marines arrived at Hilo International Airport on 29 May to join Joint Task Force-50 in relief efforts. “There was kind of a five-minute ordeal where they asked me if I wanted to go and I immediately said yes,” said Sgt. Jose Tarango a flight equipment technician with HMH-463 and a native of Waco, Texas. “I was pretty excited to get out here and get things done.”

“The only way to get these people out of specific affected areas is by air,” said Maj. David J. Bachta, executive officer Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 463. “53’s (CH-53E helicopters) are an ideal platform for that with a capacity to move a large amount of people in a short amount of time.”

The squadron, aircraft and personnel are permanently based on the island of Oahu 189 miles west of Hawaii in the Hawaiian archipelago.

HMH-463 is now conducting preparatory procedures and are standing by to move at a moment’s notice. Personnel work in 12-hour shifts, day and night waiting for the call to evacuate residents in potentially heavily affected areas.

“I love it,” said Cpl. John Monegro, an avionics technician with HMH-463 and a native of Bronx, New York. “Instead of just training we’re actually doing something that could save people’s lives.”


US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Trevor Rowett


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