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AL ASAD, Iraq - Lance Cpl. Raul Vasquez, a flightline mechanic with HMM-764 and Oxnard, Calif., native, works to repair a filter onboard a Moonlight CH-46 during scheduled routine maintenance. The flightline division is made up of engine mechanics, flightline mechanics and crew chiefs who work together to prepare their aircraft for combat operations.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Moonlight flightline division ensures aircraft readiness

15 Jul 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

The Moonlight Marines of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 764 have been busy providing support to Operation Iraqi Freedom for the second time in as many years.

With all of the flight hours and completed sorties the unit has accrued since their arrival in March, the backbone of the squadrons operations is their flightline division. Flightline works countless hours to ensure the reliability of the aircraft through inspections, scheduled routine maintenance and working with the aircrew with any problems that may come up during the operation of the aircraft.

The flightline division consists of more than 35 Marines from different military occupational specialties to include crew chiefs, engine mechanics and flightline mechanics.

“We work on anything that makes the airplane fly,” said Sgt. James Hamilton, a flightline mechanic with HMM-764 and Mobile, Ala., native. “Engines, rotor heads and transmissions are some of the systems we maintain on a daily basis. We keep our aircraft flying by performing a majority of the maintenance on the aircraft.”

In addition to all the same maintenance capabilities of their active duty counterparts, they also have engine mechanics that are unique to reserve units, like the Moonlight. The engine mechanics are generally used for intermediate level maintenance and not attached to a flying squadron.

“The engine mechanics can repair flight controls and synchronize gears,” Hamilton said. “With the more specialized mechanics, we can perform more in depth maintenance tasks than a normal squadron could.”

The crew chiefs also play a vital role in the success of the flightline division. Conducting their pre-flight and post-flight inspections, as well as keeping their eyes and ears in tune looking for anything unusual while the aircraft is airborne. They are able to take care of a problem before it develops into a major maintenance issue.

“If one of our crew chiefs sees a problem he reports that to us,” Hamilton said. “Depending on the situation and the discrepancy, together we get it taken care of before that bird’s next scheduled mission.”

The flightline division, along with the rest of the unit is full of young Marines who know what to expect in a combat environment from their deployment last year. But there are a few Marines new to the division who are adjusting to their role here.

“The squadron went through a lot of experiences last year that I missed out on,” said Lance Cpl. Jonathon D. Ayala, a flightline mechanic with HMM-764 who is serving for the first time in Iraq. “Last year, I felt like I wasn’t apart of the team while I was sitting back in the states. Now I am able to do my part to support the war effort and be an important team player.”

With the squadron being deployed for much of the past 18 months, it is the families they have back home who keep the Marines performing.

“My family is proud of what we are doing here,” Ayala said. “The hardest part is leaving my young daughter. But even though I’m missing important parts of her life, deploying in support of combat operations is what Marines do. I’m where I need to be … supporting my unit and fellow Marines as we support the entire air wings mission.”

From the many war tested Marines in flightline division to the Marines serving for the first time in a combat environment, they work together to repair and maintain the Moonlight’s fleet of CH-46’s so that they may be used to support coalition efforts toward a free and brighter Iraq. 

*For more information about this story please contact Cpl. Herron at*

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