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Logistics squadron keeps Marine aircraft flying in Afghanistan

US Marine Corps News

7/13/2011 By By Cpl. Rashaun X. James, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd)

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan — Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 40 has one mission, to guarantee 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) squadrons are never left without ordnance, working equipment or the parts they need to keep aircraft in the fight in Afghanistan.

Maj. Michael Kline, the executive officer of MALS-40, explained how this is accomplished and what sets his squadron apart from the others.

Kline noted MALS-40 is a provisional squadron, stood up specifically to deploy here. The Marines and sailors who make up the squadron in Afghanistan actually come from 17 different aviation logistics squadrons around the world.

The total structure of MALS-40, which is the largest squadron in 2nd MAW (Fwd.), is comprised of more than 650 Marines and sailors from all four Marine aircraft wings, and home stations ranging from Cherry Point, N.C., to Iwakuni, Japan.

“Most units that deploy over here come over as one defined unit,” said Kline. “No Marine is a MALS-40 Marine until they come over here. For instance, I came from MALS-26 back in New River. That’s what’s unique about us.”

Kline said he thinks another factor that helps MALS-40 support2nd MAW (Fwd.) is that most of the Marines who make up the squadron volunteered for the deployment.

“I would say about 95 percent of the Marines who are here with MALS-40 are Marines who raised their hands and said, ‘I want to go,” said Kline. “The Marines who are here want to be here. They want to be part of the fight, they want to do their job, and that just brings a different attitude and more productivity.”

Integrating so many Marines from different units into their new squadron is not a seamless integration in every case.

“There have been challenges with the Marines coming from different units,” said Kline, a native of St. Louis, Mo. “Most of them center on the fact that we didn’t train together or really know each other before we came out here. We were never afforded the opportunity to have the crawl, walk, run process. This was definitely a challenge and the biggest issue we’ve had to overcome.”

One of the biggest contributions MALS-40 makes to 2nd MAW (Fwd.) is the maintaining of aircraft parts and equipment.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Charles Hughes, the maintenance chief for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264 explained the importance of the job MALS-40 maintenance provides.

“From a maintenance standpoint, without MALS-40 support, we as a squadron would not be able to meet our daily mission,” said Hughes. “Without the maintenance support provided by MALS, the aircraft would become giant paperweights.”

Hughes and his squadron, deployed to Camp Bastion from Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., use the MV-22B Osprey to provide fast and efficient assault support for Marines and their Afghan and coalition partners in southwestern Afghanistan.

“There isn't a day that goes by that we don't depend on MALS for some type of support,” said Hughes a native of McComb, Miss. “Whether that’s support equipment to remove a rotor head or MALS supply providing the necessary part when the original piece goes bad or breaks.”

Another area where MALS-40 Marines help out is in providing ordnance to the squadrons of 2nd MAW (Fwd.).

“We provide the ordnance to the wing that prevents the bad guys from getting to the good guys on the ground,” explained Gunnery Sgt. Timothy Dorrill, the ordnance chief for MALS-40. “I believe that the aviation ordnance piece that we have provided has been above the expectations of the squadrons here.”

“Every MALS-40 ordnance Marine should feel proud of the job they have done,” said Dorrill, a native of Gastonia, N.C. “I think they have done a perfect job.”

Kline said the squadron is expected to serve in Afghanistan for about a year, and now faces a climatic challenge.

“This time of year when it’s getting hotter and the sand starts to affect the aircraft more, we’ve seen components break that weren’t breaking four or five months ago,” Kline said. “So our supply department is leaning forward, working with supply departments back in the states. We’re trying to predict what will break and get those assets here beforehand.”

MALS-40 has also taken steps to widen the scope of parts they are able to service, which Kline said means the Marines are able to help more squadrons with an increased range of support.

“The biggest thing we’ve done since we’ve been here is improve the repair capabilities for the squadrons,” said Kline. “In the first four months we identified and incorporated repair capability for over 150 new components that previously were not repaired out here. So, that affords the squadrons a quick turnaround on parts in order to get the aircraft back in the sky.”

Kline said that even though MALS-40 is behind the scenes of most of what occurs in the day to day operations in Afghanistan, they are still very involved in the overall mission of 2nd MAW (Fwd.).

“These Marines are turning the wrenches and delivering the parts 24/7,” said Kline. “Even though they’re not outside the wire engaged in direct combat with the enemy, the mission that Marines here complete is an enabler for aircraft to be up in the air, to engage with the enemy or execute [medical evacuations]. Every time you see a Marine aircraft up in the air there is a Marine somewhere within the MALS that had a hand in making that happen.”

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