The CH-53 Sea Stallion and MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters have been mainstays of the Navy and Marine Corps for decades. On any day, these heavy lift helicopters can be seen around the world performing a wide variety of critical missions.

Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) ensures squadrons in the Navy and Marine Corps are equipped with combat-ready helicopters by providing maintenance, overhaul and repair services for the platform. To do this, FRCE employs a workforce of highly skilled civilian aviation maintenance professionals who perform this often complex work. Working alongside these artisans is a small group of Marines who make up FRCE’s H-53 Military Branch. These four Marines fill a critical need in ensuring fleet aviators have what they need, when they need it.

“That may not be a large group, but they play an outsized and pivotal role here at the depot,” said FRCE Commanding Officer Capt. James Belmont. “The CH-53 and MH-53 helicopters are workhorses of the fleet and these Marines are instrumental in getting these aircraft out of the depot and back into the hands of the warfighter.”

FRCE’s H-53 Military Branch consists of two pilots and two crew chiefs, who work with the aircraft from the time FRCE inducts it for service until they fly it back to the fleet.

The squadrons expect to receive a capable aircraft that is ready for immediate use, said Capt. Ryan Boyer, FRCE’s H-53 Military Branch head and CH-53 pilot. Boyer flew CH-53s with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462 and while deployed as part of the Unit Deployment Program prior to his assignment to FRCE. He has first-hand knowledge of the importance of flight line readiness.

“Some of these aircraft are heading straight out to units that are going on Marine Expeditionary Units and deploying,” said Boyer. “Other squadrons need aircraft that they can fly and train on, so we need to be able to provide a safe aircraft that are mission-ready.”

In order to provide the fleet with quality and capable aircraft, FRCE’s H-53 Military Branch oversees a variety of critical functions, including inspections and safety checks conducted during each phase of the maintenance, overhaul and repair process, and ensuring artisans obtain and maintain necessary certifications and qualifications.