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Aviation ground support in remote western Iraq

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20056205434
Story by Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq (June 1, 2005) -- The Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 detachment here may seem like your normal support squadron, but a deeper look shows a small group of Marines going above and beyond their normal role of aviation support.

While providing top-notch aviation ground support to airfield and base camp operations is their primary mission, the Korean Village Sand Sharks work daily to improve the quality of life for service members here and in the surrounding area.

The detachment has all the sections of a typical Marine Wing Support Squadron: heavy equipment, motor transportation, aircraft rescue and firefighting, weather, expeditionary airfield operations, fuels, utilities, explosive ordnance disposal, food service and engineers. However, a quick glance at each section will show Marines committed to not only supporting the airfield, but anyone and everyone they can.

The Marines of the detachment’s meteorological operations center provide weather data to weather forecasters and observers throughout the Marine Corps’ area of operations.

With the radar station operating at 100 percent, and located in a prime region to observe incoming weather fronts from the west, the weather Marines give other operating bases a heads up on what’s coming their way.

“Weather systems move from west to east here,” said Lance Cpl. Aaron M. Jacobson, weather observer and native of Spanaway, Wash. “Our location and radar capabilities allow us to inform mission planners and flying squadrons throughout the country on weather conditions and storm tracking.”

“We have a lot of experience working with the radar, so we are able to keep it running at 100 percent,” said Cpl. Jerett A. Plyler, meteorological technician and native of Norwood, N.C. “[Radar] gives us a long range view at what’s out there, and that data is key to mission planners.”

With aircraft that lands here carrying live ordnance, the detachment’s explosive ordnance disposal team’s main mission is to support the airfield in the event of a mishap involving ordnance.

The EOD team also offers their services to the ground forces operating on the roads and in the towns of the surrounding area. In May alone, the Sand Shark EOD team responded to 54 calls outside the wire in support of 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

“In addition to supporting the airfield, we also support the Marines of 2nd LAR and any other unit operating in our area,” said Staff Sgt. Adan Morones, explosive ordnance team leader and native of Chicago. “There is a major need for EOD support outside the wire. We are ready to support those troops on the ground if they need us.”

The detachment’s fuels section provides and tests fuel for the flying squadrons. Going beyond that, the Marines regularly convoy out with 2nd LAR to forts along the Syrian and Jordanian borders to support the infantry Marines there.

“At all hours we are ready to give fuel to the aircraft that come through here,” said Sgt. Jorge A. Baez-Colon, fuels noncommissioned officer-in-charge and native of Reading, Pa. “We also support the infantry Marines out there if they need parts or help fixing things. My Marines are often on those convoys, providing security and extra eyes on the road.”

When service members here take a hot shower, turn on a light or cool down in an air-conditioned room, they can thank the Marines of the detachment’s utilities section.

The utilities Marines provide most of the power, water and air conditioning here, and also travel to the remote operating bases along the borders to improve the living conditions for the Marines there.

“We maintain and operate most of the generators here, civilian and military,” said Lance Cpl. April D. McNamara, refrigeration mechanic and native of Edmond, Okla. “The electricians handle minor to major maintenance, whether it’s re-wiring a light fixture or maintaining a 400 kilowatt amp generator that provides power to half the camp.”

Since their arrival in early February, the detachment’s water purification specialists have purified more than 388,000 gallons of water and distributed more than a million to all the units here.

All the service members here use the water for drinking, cooking, showers and laundry. In addition to providing water for the camp, the utilities Marines also take water to the Marines at the border forts.

In addition to the water and electricity, the refrigeration mechanics help service members here and at the surrounding posts ‘beat the heat’ with air conditioning units.

“Air conditioning is not only a morale thing,” McNamara said. “With some computers and sensitive equipment, air conditioning is necessary for that gear to run properly without overheating.”

Every section of the detachment does their part to provide aviation ground support as well as helping out the ground forces directly.

The detachment’s aircraft rescue and firefighting Marines are always ready to respond to an emergency on the airfield, and also serve as Korean Village’s fire department.

The motor transportation and heavy equipment sections operate all the large trucks, humvees, forklifts, bulldozers, and other heavy equipment needed to support the airfield as well as offer drivers and vehicles for 2nd LAR’s convoys.

The expeditionary airfield operators light and maintain the airfield to ensure the safe take-off and landings of the aircraft here. They also run the arrival and departure airfield control group that oversees the loading and off-loading of passengers and cargo as they come and go.

“All the Marines work very hard out there,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth R. Martinez, detachment staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge and native of Manassa, Colo. “They have the training and motivation to do their jobs, and strive to make things better for the other units and Marines here.”

“Our focus is providing superior aviation ground support,” said 1st Lt. John T. Swanson, detachment officer-in-charge and native of Prineville, Ore. “However, if a need for support on or off base arises, and the capability to fulfill that need is resident to our detachment, the Sand Sharks will meet the challenge with enthusiasm.”

*For more information about the Marines or news reported on in this story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at*


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