MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif., --
Getting an aircraft to soar is a long, complicated process. With in-depth inspections, fixing broken parts, weapons and electrical issues, the process of getting the metal beasts in the air falls on the shoulders of some of the youngest Marines in the aircraft wing.
A typical maintenance section is divided into four main shops: avionics, which deals with electrical systems of the aircraft; airframe, which handles metal work repair and hydraulics; flightline, who are the “big wrench” mechanics and air crew; and ordnance, the section that loads bombs, preps weapons and rounds.
The four shops work together like a sleek machine, getting the aircraft up as fast as possible, making sure everything is perfect so as not to put the crew in danger.
“These Marines are doing an outstanding job out here,” said Master Sgt. John Foster, maintenance control chief, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. “I am impressed with the professionalism they have, we have very good Marines here.”
Foster and his Marines are here supporting the Combat Center’s Enhanced Mojave Viper exercise.
The individual shops function together like a tight-knit group. Being small shops given a large task, they grow together.
“Ordnance is like a family,” said Cpl. Timothy Smith, aviation ordnance, HMLA-467. “We are the smallest shop. We take care of each other and look out for each other.”
The ordnance shop brings smiles to the flight line when the pilots come back with all their rounds fired.
“We do a Winchester Dance,” Smith said laughing. “It’s a tradition nobody else does.”
The dance was not demonstrated however, so no description is available.
For many of the Cherry Point Marines, this was their first time training at the Combat Center, giving Marines who have been to combat zones an opportunity to teach the more inexperienced ones.
The Marines have asked what they will face in combat situations and training at the Combat Center is a good place to teach them, said Cpl. Jayson Smith, avionics technician and collateral duty inspector for HMLA-467. Knowing these helicopters will save Marines in combat.
Before each helicopter takes off, it goes through a series of inspections, ensuring all is safe for another take off.
“Mechanics look over every piece to make sure it’s good for flight,” said Lance Cpl. Michael Moss, flight line crew chief with HMLA-467.
The final inspection is done by the plane captain, a Marine who has demonstrated extraordinary knowledge of the aircraft, he added.
With these last few checks complete, the crew takes over and takes off for their mission, secure in the knowledge they and their aircraft are ready to go.
“I love my job. It’s the best job in the Marine Corps,” Moss said. “In the aircraft, it takes complete crew coordination, it’s important to know each other well. It’s a dangerous job, and we take it seriously.”