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Marauders help prepare to drop bombs in Australia

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 2/5/2004

Story by Lance Cpl. Giovanni Lobello

ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE BASE TOWNSVILLE, Australia(February 6, 2004) -- Marine Air Logistics Squadron 12's advance party recently off-loaded a vast amount of explosives from a carrier ship to kick off Operation Southern Frontier 2004.

"Japanese, along with the assistance of several Marines that were present, loaded the ship with ordnance in Sasebo, Japan," said Cpl. Karen Sowala, aviation ordnance technician.

From Sasebo, the ship set a course to the port of Townsville, added Sowala. Once the mammoth vessel arrived, the Marines were called in to setup a go between for the ship and the port that was too small to support the mission.

After being in Australia approximately 24 hours, 10 aviation ordnance technician Marines were then boated off the shore of Magnetic Island, a local tourist attraction, and into the middle of the ocean to perform this transaction.

After arriving to the ship, Marines were now responsible for off-loading the ordnance into a barge.

"Approximately one 2,000-pound bomb, 71 1,000-pound bombs and 90 500-pound bombs were off loaded from the ship and brought into Australia," said Cpl. Todd Whittington, aviation ordnance technician.

"Unloading all the ordnance was a two-day evolution with eight hours of nonstop work," added Whittington. "While you are out there handling these sensitive bombs, there is no time for horseplay and close attention to surroundings was important."

The reason that it took two days was because of compatibility, said Lance Cpl. Justin Stover, aviation ordnance technician. We were only able to load a certain amount of bombs into the barge to ensure everyone's safety.

Despite the great level of danger involved, machinery was used to ease the process and minimize the risk of a negative outcome.

"The bombs were moved by using a big hoist from the carrier ship and placed into the small barge," commented Whittington. "While the bombs were being moved, Marines stood by and guided the ordnance into its proper location making sure nothing unexpected occurred."

Despite the help of the hoist, off-loading the ordnance unfortunately was not that easy.

"The worst part of being in the ocean was having to deal with swells that we had to deal with," said Sowala. "The swells would move the little barge in every direction making it hard to place the bombs down on the deck of the barge."

"We would try to guide the bombs onto palettes but with the waves moving the barge we had to be very careful," commented Whittington. "The second day was much easier having a forklift around and with the cooperation of the weather to unload the rest and bring back all the ordnance safely."

"By no means was the amount of bombs we unloaded a lot, however it still involved time and patience from every involved," concluded Stover.

According to Sowala, "despite the complication with the swells, this was still a great learning experience that will definitely make the next time we have to unload bombs more organized and even easier."

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 332 will use the 162 bombs during Operation Southern Frontier 2004.

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