MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
An installation the size of the Combat Center comes with lots of maintenance, ranging from road repairs and replacing firing targets to building landing pads for the many types of aircraft that fly in to support training.
To help keep the maintenance down on V-22 Osprey helicopters, due to poor landing pads, the Marines and sailors of Engineering Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, headed out June 18, 2011, to create nine new helicopter landing pads, at Lead Mountain, Emerson Lake and Lavic Lake.
“It has been going well, and we are ahead of schedule,” said 1st Lt. Gary Antilla, the executive officer for Engineering Co., MWSS-374. “Once we got the aggregate to the site, the Marines put forth outstanding effort and a lot of hours in the graters and earth moving equipment. We are wrapping up the project now for nine HLZ pads that are a lot better than the ones they had before.”
As the Marines worked day-after-day, hours of behind the scenes work kept all the moving parts running smoothly.
“We had to coordinate all the gravel coming in,” said Sgt. Duane Kampa, the site noncommissioned officer in charge with Engineering Co. “At [Lavic Lake] alone, we had 83 dump trucks come in and to make sure they were poured out in the right spots. [We also had to] mark out all the 120-by-120 [foot] pads with 200 feet inbetween them.”
The different construction sites across the Combat Center each held unique challenges for the Marines to work around.
“The ground work was real sketchy at Lead Mountain because a lot of terrain was messed up and terrible, so the initial grain was rough.” said Lance Cpl. Shane Tucker, a heavy equipment operator with Engineering Co. “Once we got in our trucks and they started coordinating where the trucks were going, everything just went smoothly from then on.”
Since the mission began just days before the summer solstice and the desert had already started heating up, every safety precaution was taken to prevent heat casualties.
“We brought out a refrigeration unit, two air conditioners and generators to provide a cooling tent,” said Antilla. “We cycle the operators in-and-out, make sure they are not logging too many hours in the sun on the heavy equipment. [We’re also] making sure they are drinking a lot of water, [that there is a] Corpsman on site and IV bags [are] on standby.”
The unit finished their job two days ahead of schedule, and still managed to complete annual training requirements while working.
“It does fulfill a lot of the [units] training requirements, [including] earth movement and heavy equipment,” said Antilla. “This is something the Marines get a lot of value out of because this is something they are going to do when they get in-country.”