News | May 8, 2022

A ‘Day in the Life’ of Marine Corps Heavy Lift Maintainers

By Victoria Falcón

Personnel with the H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office recently visited Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 464 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina, to gain “day in the life” perspective of the squadron’s aircraft workload and facilitate communications between Marine personnel and the program office. The visit was hosted by HMH-464 and was successful in validating the important work being done by both organizations.

“The relationships we build in our day-to-day business will define our success,” said Joanna Sockoloskie, In-Service Co-Lead for the program office. “Part of our program philosophy states there is no such thing as ‘over-communication,’ so when the opportunity came for five of us to visit New River it was a no-brainer.”

Sockoloskie was joined by Garrett Douglass, procuring contracting officer; Chris Medic, class desk engineer for the In-Service team; and Toni Sieg, Fleet Common Operating Environment (FCOE) and readiness team analyst. Michelle Stone, lead of the H-53 Fleet Support Team, joined them from Fleet Readiness Center East, Cherry Point, North Carolina.

According to Sockoloskie, the group started their morning with a flight line standup meeting, observed a promotion ceremony, took part in a maintenance meeting, held some one-on-one meetings with squadron leadership and visited aircraft on the flight line.

“It was pretty much a ‘day in the life’ visit, as the fleet made no real accommodation for us—they just did their work and allowed us to observe and interact,” she said.

“During the meetings, we heard about the head-hurters for the Marines,” Sockoloskie said. “They discussed their priorities, parts issues, challenges they face and how they organize their days.”

According to Douglass, the program office team had a chance to talk about the current and future in-service products being designed and contracted for them.

“We spoke about upcoming maintenance requirements such as RESET and our Contractor Maintenance Services efforts with Marine Heavy Helicopter Training Squadron (HMHT) 302,” Douglass said. “These contracts provide tangible benefits to them that they gave us feedback on in real time.”

The team was also given a run-down of the Aviation Maintenance Supply Readiness Report list of all non-flying aircraft and what’s preventing them from getting off that list.

Sieg explained that the data she works with in her job provides only part of the picture.

“The information we gain from talking to the fleet, seeing firsthand what they see, gives us a much more complete answer,” she said.

That information sharing goes both ways.

“I hope the fleet gained some knowledge of what Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and the program office, specifically, do,” she said. “I explained to them how the data they provide is utilized outside of the fleet—not only by NAVAIR, but all the way up to the Pentagon, as well.”

“We shared trending data we have from other squadrons and how they are dealing with similar issues,” Sockoloskie said, “and we discussed some of the obsolescence and supply challenges that we are tackling to prevent future impacts to mission capable rates.”

The team also discussed how they can assist with issues such as 182-day inspections and parts needs.

After hearing from the squadron in all these areas, Sockoloskie presented a brief on the NAVAIR organization, including how the focus of the program office may differ at times as it looks into the future to solve potential obsolescence and supply issues.

“I gained a renewed appreciation for the challenges that the fleet faces in their day-to-day operations,” said Sockoloskie. “Seeing all those Marines working on aircraft on the flight line made a powerful impact on me. There is an incredible amount of work being done—and no hour they aren’t busy.”

Douglass had a similar reaction.

“We often speak about the 19-year-old maintenance line Lance Corporal out on the flight line,” he said, “but actually seeing them and speaking to them gave me valuable perspective behind the ‘why’ of what we do.”

Victoria Falcón is a Strategic Communications Specialist with the H-53 Heavy Lift Helicopters Program Office.