Photo Information

AL ASAD, Iraq ? Aircraft recovery specialists from Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 hammer down cruciform stakes while relocating an expeditionary arresting gear trailer April 20. The stakes serve as anchoring supports for the gear during aircraft arrestments.


All work, no horseplay for aircraft recovery specialists

23 Apr 2005 | Sgt. Juan Vara

It was so hot that even the lizards were afraid to leave their holes, regardless the job had to be done and the Marines were determined despite the rising mercury.

They were slightly behind schedule, a sandstorm delayed their progress earlier in the week.  So for the next few days time was of the essence.  A job needed to get done and they were focused on finishing it.

Stopping only briefly for water and food the work site was a beehive of activity, working as hard and safe as they could until there was no more daylight.

They would have kept working, but the lives of aviators depend on the quality of work put into this project.  Missing a few important things due to low visibility was not a risk anyone would take.

The smallest mistake could have set them back a few more hours by having to backtrack to fix the discrepancy or even worse, it could cost somebody’s life.

On the airfield here, Marines from the recovery shop of the expeditionary airfield division of Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 spaced out the expeditionary arresting gear on one of the runways and removed another set of gear from one runway and reinstalled it on a different one.

The first set of expeditionary arresting gear was spaced out to allow wide-body aircraft such as C-5s, C-17s and commercial planes to use that entire runway.  While aircraft were able to use the runway before, the new location eliminates even the remote hazard it presented in its old location.

The second set was removed from one runway which is scheduled to be shut down and relocated to another.

According to Staff Sgt. Jason M. Bolyard, project manager and EAF production control chief, the expeditionary arresting gear here is the newest in use by Marine aircraft recovery specialists.

Prior to MWSS-271 coming here, representatives from the Naval Air Warfare Center in Lakehurst, N.J., went to the “Workhorses” home station, Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., and taught the EAF Marines all there is to know about the gear.

“The gear is designed for expeditionary airfields and is mainly here for emergencies,” said Bolyard, a Chillicothe, Ohio, native.  “It provides a means of bringing tail hook equipped aircraft to a safe stop whenever normal landing procedures cannot be used, and in case the airfield here is attacked we can repair 4,000 feet of the runway and still have tail hook equipped aircraft land.  We wouldn’t need an 8,000-foot runway.”

The EAF warfighters worked for four days braving the blazing sun and a blasting sandstorm but finished the project with a smile on their faces.

It wasn’t easy, but at the end their hard work paid off when a representative from Naval Air Systems Command certified both sets of gear as ready for use.

“They did an outstanding job,” said Johnny Lovell, representative from the Naval Air Systems Command Expeditionary Airfield Service Unit at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz.  “This is their third consecutive project and they’ve put in some long hours.”

Lovell, who was requested to come here to certify the gear, worked along the aircraft recovery specialists from start to finish, overseeing the proper installation of the gear and providing technical assistance.

“The Marines did all the work,” said Lovell, a native of Oxon Hill, Md.  “They truly are the workhorses of the wing.”

- For more information about the Marines reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at -