U.S. Navy utilizes coal mine for the first time to sharpen skills

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BOONE COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – For the first time, the U.S. Navy has landed in the Mountain State to use its geographic features as a training tool for naval aviation squadrons.

What was once one of the largest surface mines in West Virginia, has recently been turned into a military training facility presenting unique obstacles to help troops sharpen their skills.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron Nine Commander, Michael Marks said, “with the mountains here and the ranges, it provides a significant opportunity for us to increase our proficiency and teach a new pilot something they haven’t seen before.”

The former Hobet Coal Mine’s 12,000 acres attracts all branches of the military, bringing in millions of dollars into the state.

This is the first time a naval aviation squadron, based out of Norfolk, Virginia, is taking advantage of the terrain for training purposes like take-offs, landings and recovery missions.

“And get more comfortable with flying in the mountains, making the calls and navigating and then directing the flight to accomplish the task at hand is challenging,” said Marks.

A crew of 105 members has more than a week to simulate many life-like scenarios they couldn’t conduct back home.

“We’ll come back and we’ll debrief the flight and we’ll talk about lessons learned. We’ll talk about what was good, what was bad and what can be improved upon for the next time,” said Marks.

Crew members will wrap up training and head back to Norfolk this Sunday.

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