Article and photos by Maj. George Milevich, U.S. Army Reserve

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. - Joint Base McGuire-Dix Lakehurst offers many training opportunities for Soldiers from every branch of the U.S. military. In addition to the available training ranges there are multiple units located on the base that are eager to combine their training with other military organizations. One of those units is the 772nd Marine Heavy Helicopter (HMH) Squadron, and the Marines assigned to this unit are eager to join sister services to offer additional training opportunities. The 7221st Medical Support Unit (MSU) could not pass up such an extraordinary opportunity to train with Marine counterparts during their annual training.

The 7221st MSU was able to train on loading and offloading of patients on a heavy lift helicopter by coordinating training with the local Marine unit. Sgt. Mark Benz, a crew chief assigned to the 772nd HMH trained the medical unit on how to properly enter and exit the aircraft during the exercise. He also explained what hand signals are used during the operation of the aircraft as the noise level prevents verbal directions during the operation of this helicopter. The training was especially valuable to the combat medics with the 7221st MSU since the training included a discussion on how to properly load and secure litters for patient transport.

Joint training is paramount to success of military missions since the different services often work together during contingency operations. Staff Sgt. Billy Egipciaco, flight line division chief for the 772nd HMH emphasized the importance of training like this.

"It's very good to be training with other service members because it will help us in the future when we have to conduct missions to know what we have to do to complete the missions," said Egipciaco.

Training with other service members is nothing new to the 772nd HMH according to Egipciaco. Recently the Marines trained with the Special Operations Forces during operation Jaded Thunder. Their training included casualty evacuation operations similar to the training they provided members of the 7221st MSU.

"A lot of Soldiers will get on the aircraft and not know what's going on because it's their first time. Getting them on the aircraft and getting them familiar with how to sit down and buckle their seatbelts is very crucial, especially when we are on deck or if we are getting shot at, they need to know how to strap down so that we can take off as fast as possible," Egipciaco said.

Lt. Col. Katherine Marr, commander of the 7221st MSU was grateful to the Marine unit for the opportunity to learn new skills and solidify others that hadn't been practiced in a while. While many Army Soldiers are familiar with the CASEVAC processes using Army Black Hawk helicopters, most are not familiar with the nuances of working with Marine missions. "It was a fantastic opportunity for our Soldiers to see other evacuation vehicles and capabilities. It was very exciting to work with the Marines," said Marr.