Photo Information

ARABIAN SEA (May 6, 2012) Reconnaissance Marines with Batalion Landing Team 3/1 rappel out of a UH-1Y Huey flown by pilots with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (Reinforced) onto USS Makin Island's flight deck here May 6. The landing team serves as the ground combat element with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The unit is deployed as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, currently a U.S. Central Command theater reserve force. The group is providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Elyssa Quesada)

Photo by Sgt. Elyssa Quesada

AH-1Z Viper exceeds expectations on first deployment

29 May 2012 | Sgt. Elyssa Quesada

Six months into its first operational deployment, the four-blade AH-1Z Viper is performing at levels that show, according to officials, just why the Marine Corps has upgraded its aviation attacking power.

Four of the “Zulu” model SuperCobra attack helicopters have done “extremely well and gone beyond the Marines’ expectations,” said maintenance controller Gunnery Sgt. Jerami Withrow, who hails from White Bear Lake, Minn.

The skid-landing helicopters are flown and maintained by members of an 84-Marine detachment from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 in Camp Pendleton, Calif. The detachment is one of eight that reinforces Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 to comprise the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s aviation combat power.

The light-attack detachment also flies and maintains three skid-landing UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters. This new “Yankee” model Huey also has four blades. In fact, the UH-1Y and AH-1Z share an 85-percent parts commonality, which streamlines training and maintenance.

Since deploying the Yankee-Zulu package in November 2011 to the Western Pacific, Horn of Africa and Middle East regions aboard amphibious ships, and six months ahead of deploying, squadron pilots have flown more than 800 hours and completed more than 500 assorted unit missions, all requiring minimal maintenance, according to skid detachment officer in charge Maj. Michael Swift.

The Yankee-Zulu package is replacing the two-bladed AH-1W and UH-1N helicopters. The new helicopters can carry an additional 2,000 to 4,000 pounds, travel faster and conduct combat operations from a safer distance, according to Gunnery Sgt. Greg Shaw, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the detachment’s quality assurance.

“The aircraft readiness has been far beyond what we expected for shipboard operations,” said Shaw, a 32-year-old Clarksville, Tenn., native.

With a fully integrated cockpit and more fuel, blades and overall power, the helicopters can remain airborne longer without having to refuel or deprive ground forces of valuable ordnance, said Shaw.

According to Swift, since June 2011, the Zulus have fired more than 9,000 20-mm rounds and more than 365 inert and high-explosive rockets.

The unit embarked USS Makin Island, USS New Orleans and USS Pearl Harbor in San Diego Nov. 14, beginning a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific, Horn of Africa and Middle East regions.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999.

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Lieutenant Col. Gregory Youngberg
Executive Officer

Upon graduating The Basic School in July 2004, LtCol Youngberg reported to flight school in Pensacola, Florida, designated a Naval Aviator in March 2006 and reported to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron (HMLAT) 303 for replacement aircrew training in the AH-1W. Following OEF in 2010, LtCol Youngberg was awarded the 2010 MCAA Alfred A. Cunningham Award for Marine Corps Aviator of the Year.

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Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarr enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.

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11th Marine Expeditionary Unit