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Marines prepare straps for the air hoist of an M777 howitzer cannon during a Rim of the Pacific excercise at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016.
Marines prepare straps for the air hoist of an M777 howitzer cannon during a Rim of the Pacific excercise at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)
Marines prepare straps for the air hoist of an M777 howitzer cannon during a Rim of the Pacific excercise at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016.
Marines prepare straps for the air hoist of an M777 howitzer cannon during a Rim of the Pacific excercise at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)
A Marine Corps Super Stallion helicopter hovers above a howitzer cannon as Marines below prepare it for a flight to the live-fire field at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016.
A Marine Corps Super Stallion helicopter hovers above a howitzer cannon as Marines below prepare it for a flight to the live-fire field at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)
A Super Stallion helicopter takes off with a 10,000-pound howitzer cannon at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016. "It never feels easy doing this," said Lt. Col. Benjamin Harrison, commander of the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, adding that there's a lot at stake when you're risking injuries and a lot of money by hoisting a $1 million-plus weapon in the air.
A Super Stallion helicopter takes off with a 10,000-pound howitzer cannon at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016. "It never feels easy doing this," said Lt. Col. Benjamin Harrison, commander of the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, adding that there's a lot at stake when you're risking injuries and a lot of money by hoisting a $1 million-plus weapon in the air. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)
Artillerymen with Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, swarm around a howitzer cannon to prepare it for use at the live-fire range at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016.
Artillerymen with Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, swarm around a howitzer cannon to prepare it for use at the live-fire range at Pohakuloa Training Area on the big island of Hawaii, July 19, 2016. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)
A Marine totes charge canisters for a howitzer at the live-fire range at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 19, 2016.
A Marine totes charge canisters for a howitzer at the live-fire range at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 19, 2016. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)
Marine cannoneers prepare to insert a charge into the barrel of a howitzer during an artillery raid at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 19, 2016, as part of the Rim of the Pacific exercise.
Marine cannoneers prepare to insert a charge into the barrel of a howitzer during an artillery raid at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 19, 2016, as part of the Rim of the Pacific exercise. (Wyatt Olson/Stars and Stripes)

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii — Hoisting a 10,000-pound howitzer cannon into the air can be a nerve-racking affair.

“It never feels easy doing this,” Lt. Col. Benjamin Harrison, commander of the 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, said while watching as one of the Marine Corps’ workhorse helicopters, the CH-53E Super Stallion, hovered above two M777 howitzers at the Pohakuloa Training Area airfield on Hawaii’s big island this week.

Harrison added that there’s a lot at stake when you’re risking injuries and a lot of money by hoisting a $1 million-plus weapon in the air.

The cannons were brought to the island aboard a ship, then hauled by truck to the training area.

The cannon’s weight is at the upper end of the helicopter’s lift capability, and variations in a helicopter’s maintenance life and changes in altitude — the training area is about 6,000 feet above sea level — can make a lift a no-go.

But the Super Stallion did its job, delivering both howitzers for an artillery raid on the edge of the live-fire zone, an apocalyptic-looking bed of twisted volcanic rock, into which artillery batteries fired 24 rounds each.

The drill was part of the Rim of the Pacific exercise and offered a rare opportunity for units from Marine Corps Base Hawaii to operate as an ad hoc Marine Air-Ground Task Force, which combined elements of a heavy helicopter squadron and logistics and artillery battery teams.

“It is absolutely a MAGTF effort to get this done,” Harrison said of the howitzer raid.

olson.wyatt@stripes.com Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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