AL ASAD, Iraq -- The Marine Corps has long been known for winning battles thanks to the individual Marines on the ground and the air support they receive. That support comes from helicopters or jets which at some point or time were worked on by Marines in an aviation logistics squadron.
After deploying to this former Iraqi air base and becoming one of the largest Marine aviation logistics squadrons in the world, the "Patriots" of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 (Reinforced) are supporting every type of aircraft in the Corps, short of the MV-22 Osprey, and maintaining high aircraft readiness.
The squadron, originally based at Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C., came here with about 300 Marines and has been reinforced by Marines from several Marine aviation logistics squadrons in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Marine Aircraft Wings, bringing the number of personnel to more than 700.
Their mission is to provide aviation logistics support, guidance and direction to the flying squadrons here and provide intermediate level maintenance for aircraft and aeronautical equipment. They also perform repairs on specific engines and request, store, handle, assemble, transport and inventory ammunition.
"Every Marine unit has their own little twist on how they do things and [the Marines reinforcing us] have adapted real well and they're providing quality support," said Chief Warrant Officer Scott Bak, MALS-26 (Rein) production control officer and Erskine, Minn., native.
According to Bak, the unit is supporting more than 12 squadrons with aircraft ranging from the backbone of Marine aviation, the CH-46E Sea Knight, to the F/A-18D Hornet.
"The quality of the maintainers we have is just incredible," said Bak. "These guys impress me daily. They're doing amazing things and their willingness to increase aircraft readiness has taken them out of their traditional scope of intermediate level maintenance. Maintenance that is traditionally performed in this squadron, they're doing it at the organizational level [the flying squadrons] to decrease downtime."
Capt. Jeffrey S. Clemons, MALS-26 (Rein) avionics officer, said Marines going to the squadrons to repair components without removing them from the aircraft saves time and gets the assets back in the fight a lot quicker. As an avionics officer, Clemons is in charge of the Marines who repair all electrical components that can be removed from the aircraft.
A squadron that supports rotary-wing and tilt-rotor aircraft, MALS-26 gained hundreds of Marines who support fixed-wing aircraft such as the EA-6B Prowler, AV-8B II+ Harrier, F/A-18A+ Hornet and the KC-130J Hercules.
"The fixed-wing guys have really brought a big enhancement to what we do as a rotary-wing MALS," said Clemons, from Bryceville, Fla. "The [reinforcing] squadrons sent out great professionals to support their aircraft."
One of these professionals is Sgt. Patrick B. Pasquale, a radar technician from South Euclid, Ohio, who's reinforcing MALS-26 out of MALS-31 in Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, S.C.
"It's gratifying being out here and knowing what we do has direct results," he said. "The aircraft flies real missions and needs the parts back from us. It's rewarding to know what we do has tangible results."
Adapting quickly to working in an environment different than what they're used to, MALS-26 (Rein) remains committed to providing complete aviation logistics assistance.
"Our job is to support the squadrons," said Staff Sgt. Tim S. Port, from Poland, Ohio, supervisor of the MALS-26 (Rein) dynamic components work center, in which components such as rotor systems, drive systems and flight controls are repaired. "The squadrons support the "grunts' and we support them."