AL ASAD, Iraq -- When an EA-6B Prowler flies overhead, the unique resonance of the air ripping apart drowns out all other ambient sounds.
The amazing capability and attention-drawing spectacle of a Prowler in flight
tends to draw attention away from the truly amazing accomplishments of the Marines
who ensure the aircraft can accomplish its electronic warfare mission.
The Marine mechanics and maintainers of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare
Squadron 4 work as a closely-knit team to provide the best product each and everyday.
“Like a football team who can’t win without players on both sides of the ball,
each division and section is vital to our success,” said 1st Lt. Pat M. Haines, maintenance
material control officer and native of Vacaville, Calif.
The maintenance part of the squadron is broken down into different divisions that
cover related maintenance objectives. Those divisions are then broken down into sections
to focus on specific aspects of the aircraft.
Looking at a Prowler in the sky or parked on the flightline, one sees the first
division’s responsibility, airframes. Airframe mechanics handle all the external parts of
the aircraft, hydraulic flight controls, flight equipment, the ejection seats, and safety
“We are basically responsible for the skin and skeleton of the aircraft,” said Cpl.
Chris I. Ulmer, airframes mechanic and native of Pleasant Hill, Iowa. “Each day we
maintain all the moving parts that allow the aircraft to maneuver through the skies and
house all the other components.”
Housed inside the airframe of the Prowler are the engines that allow it to dash
through the air at speeds of up to 500 miles per hour. Responsible for the ‘power plant’ of
the aircraft are the Marines of the powerlines division.
Not only do they ensure the engines are properly maintained and ready to fly, they
are responsible for double-checking every detail of the aircraft, as well as launching and
recovering the jets and certifying the maintenance of the other sections.
“We go over every detail, down to the smallest nut and bolt,” said Sgt. Ruben
Martinez, powerlines mechanic and native of Dumas, Texas. “The whole aircraft is in our
hands. Being thorough is essential, because the smallest detail can damage the aircraft in
flight and put the lives of the aircrew in jeopardy.”
At the heart of the aircraft lies the soul of the electronic warfare mission -
electronic countermeasures. The EA-6B has a unique mission. Instead of engaging enemy
targets with bombs or machine guns, the Prowler uses non-kinetic, or electric, attacks to
disrupt or disable the enemies’ capabilities.
The responsibility for these electronic capabilities falls to the avionics division.
Covering electronics, communications and navigation, ordnance and electronic
countermeasures, the avionics Marines ensure the EA-6B can carry out its important
“There is no reason for this aircraft to fly without the electronic countermeasure
capabilities we provide,” said Lance Cpl. Devin J. Wesley, electronic countermeasures
technician and native of Robinson, Ill. “We ensure the systems are up and running with
daily maintenance and upkeep.”
With all these pieces of the puzzle necessary to the success of the mission,
teamwork between the various sections is essential. Taking away one aspect would keep
the Prowlers on the ground and out of the fight.
Airframers and electricians work together to ensure the aircraft is properly wired,
ordnance technicians load and arm the tactical pods after the electronic countermeasure
techs calibrate them, and powerline mechanics work with the seat-shop to load and refill
compressed gasses necessary for flight. These examples are just a few that move the
focus on teamwork within the squadron.
“The squadron is like one big family, depending on each other to accomplish the
mission,” Wesley said. “This deployment has brought us together in a new way. Out here
we are the only family we have, so we see camaraderie that soars past common levels.”
“All the shops work closely together,” Ulmer said. “Without that teamwork,
things wouldn’t run nearly as smooth or as quickly.”
Focused and working as a team, in the month of March alone, the maintenance
department of VMAQ-4 logged 8,242 maintenance man-hours, roughly the equivalent of
three months of maintenance back in the United States.
“They don’t stop until the job is done,” Haines said. “Whether they work a 12-
hour day or a 16-hour day. They know how important our mission is and their work ethic
is a great testament to their dedication.”
*For more information about the Marines or news reported on in this
story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at defilippisrc@acemnf-