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 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

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Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

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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.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

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