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MWSS-273 welders cut, burn, melt their way to mission accomplishment

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 5/28/2004

Story by Sgt. J.L. Zimmer III

AL ASAD, Iraq (May 28, 2004) -- The Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, arrived here in February with one thing in mind, supporting the Marines and Sailors of 3rd MAW with anything they need.

The metalworkers of MWSS-273 maintenance are here not only to assist, they are here to design and build anything a unit needs that requires heat, sweat and several hundred volts of electricity to make.

The metalworkers have been busier than almost any other group of Marines here, despite the fact that there are only two of them.

Sgt. Philip J. Thornton, a 24-year-old Deltona, Fla., native and Lance Cpl. Jeremy A. Gray, a 19-year-old Gretna, Va., native, both metalworkers with MWSS-273, are a two-man team with creative ideas and the technical proficiency of men far beyond their age.

"We have a trade that does not require a technical manual to tell you how to do something," said Gray. "But that means we have to know our job well enough to not need the manuals. We have to be creative enough to make something out of nothing."

Constantly busy, the two Marines have completed more than 150 tasks since arriving in theater and still have a laundry list of assignments to complete.

"These Marines have done everything from gates to door latches and plumbing work," said Gunnery Sgt. Brett C. Scheuer, maintenance chief, MWSS-273 and 35-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., native. "They have everyone from around the base coming to them for projects."

According to Thornton, the job is something he loves to do and having a younger Marine to teach makes it especially meaningful.

"I have been teaching Gray field-expedient ways to do things and the ins-and-outs of the (military occupational specialty)," said Thornton. "He is coming along pretty well and learning a lot since we have been here."

Gray, a young warrior with motivation to spare, said he enjoys his job and would not trade it for anything else.

"This is the best MOS in the Marine Corps," he said. "The Marine Corps has taught me a trade that I can carry with me a long way. I can always progress and get better."

Thornton, an experienced and talented metalworker, has been welding for the Marine Corps for more than six years and is encountering obstacles here he is not used to at his home base of Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, S.C.

"The biggest difference between here and there is the amount of adapting and overcoming we have to do here," he said. "Different obstacles, like not having the right tool for the right job happens but we work our way around them."

Although Gray's experience does not extend as far as Thornton's, Scheuer believes the two make an excellent team.

"If I had to pick my 'A' team, they would be on it," he said. "They are truly the best at what they do. They are the most proficient and technically sound duty experts at what they do."

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