MOREHEAD CITY, NC, UNITED STATES --
In the humid North Carolina weather, Marines shouted to be heard over the noise of cranes and forklifts. A number of shipping containers and shelters needed to be moved ashore. This was one of the last tasks that needed to be finished before the Marines could pack up and go home. For weeks they’d been aboard the Military Sealift Command aviation logistics support ship SS Wright (T-AVB 3) for Exercise Carolina Dragon 2022.
Carolina Dragon is a biennial exercise, conducted with the Military Sealift Command aviation logistics support ship SS Wright (T-AVB 3), to train Marines to provide intermediate-level maintenance on a forward-deployed platform. This year’s evolution was special. This was the first time intermediate maintainers from an aviation unit and a ground unit integrated.
“If a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) has to deploy, we can take all their assets and components, put it on this ship, and move it to a forward-deployed area,” said Gunnery Sgt. Zachary Pipher, a loadmaster from MALS-31. “We don’t have to move Marines into a forward operating base or establish an airfield.”
Approximately 200 Marines from 15 different units in 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) and 2nd Marine Logistics Group (MLG) participated in this exercise from 10-20 September.
“We have ground and aviation folks working together on the ship at the same time,” said Master Sgt. Jason Fehrer, a ground electronic systems maintenance chief with 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 2nd MLG. “This all goes back to a 2013 study done by the deputy commandant for installations and logistics up at Headquarters Marine Corps. They did this study to figure out if ground and air units integrated on a ship could do intermediate-level maintenance… those are the folks that can do a deep dive on an engine and really get into the components. That’s what the MALS folks do, and that’s what 2nd Maintenance Battalion from Camp Lejeune does. This is the first time that intermediate-level maintenance has really been integrated, and on top of that we’re doing it on a ship.”
More time was spent collaborating and learning than doing maintenance.
“This evolution is not going to be evaluated or judged by how much we repaired, or how effective those repairs were,” said Fehrer, “but more of our ability to do those repairs, complete those repairs efficiently on ship… and what shortfalls we identified.”
The lessons learned from this experiment can enable the Marine Corps to accomplish more with less in a deployed environment.
“I think it was very successful,” said Fehrer. “We’ve learned a lot about how the MAW uses and operates the ship. We’ve learned how we can integrate in… to the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations and that littoral space the Marine Corps is kind of focusing on. This is a potential platform.”
The Military Sealift Command aviation logistics support ship SS Wright (T-AVB 3) provides a forward-deployed capability that could be useful to both ground and aviation units by reducing the logistical footprint and saving time for Marines at the tip of the spear.