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AL ASAD, Iraq ? Corporals James Majors, a native of Salem, Ore., and Joshua Drummond, a Watson, La., native, both avionics technicians with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465, inspect the wiring connected to the clutch bottle on a CH-53E here July 29. The avionics division is the first shop called to troubleshoot most malfunctions with the aircraft.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Warhorse avionics keeps wires hot through continuous education

27 Jul 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Flying more than 700 hours a month can take a toll on any squadron. The Warhorses of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 465 take it in stride, thanks to their outstanding maintenance crew, to include their avionics shop

The avionics shop consists of Marines responsible for the multiple miles of wiring in each of the squadron’s CH-53E Super Stallions.

“We have a hand in everything that has wiring involved in it,” said Cpl. Joshua Drummond, an avionics technician with HMH-465 and Watson, La., native. “Engine, hydraulic, lighting, communications and navigations systems are just some of the different components that we are responsible for.”

With a hand in all parts of the aircraft, the avionics division is the first to diagnose the problem when an issue with the aircraft develops a malfunction.

“We usually troubleshoot a problem and then if the problem is something we can’t fix, then the proper sections get involved to get that aircraft ready to fly again,” Drummond said.   

The avionics Marines also play an important role while the aircraft are preparing to lift off. Every time a Warhorse helicopter prepares to launch, an avionics Marine is close by to ensure everything goes off without a hitch. And if it does not go as planned then he is there to quickly fix the problem and the aircraft can continue its mission.

“Avionics troubleshooters haunt the flightline during launches. They bring their formidable skills to bear on any ‘gremlins’ that may appear,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Demilio, the Warhorse avionics chief and Chicago, native. “They make sure our pilots get done with their pre-flight checks on time.  This is vital because people in the field are relying on us to be there. They need us to get them where they need to be or bring supplies to them so they can keep the pressure on the insurgents.”

The avionics division has been fighting through a lack of experience on their crew. With almost big percentage percentage of the Marines having less than seven months of experience in the field, the Warhorse squadron takes every moment to train both on the job and in the classroom.

“Some people may think combat is a bad time to conduct regular training, but a bulk of our Marines are new to the job. Also, a majority of our senior noncommissioned officers will be leaving our unit at the end of this deployment and that will create a big experience gap. We are trying to combat that with teaching our young guys everything we can,” Demilio said.

According to Drummond the new Marines are picking up things very quickly. “They have learned a lot in the few months we have been out here and everyday strive to learn something new to be better avionics technicians,” he said.

With a new approach to education, the avionics division has become more confident and the skill level of the entire shop has grown as the deployment has progressed.

“The avionics shop would not have succeeded out here if it wasn’t for the unique maintenance climate we have created,” Demilio said. “The maintenance department’s posture toward continued technical training to support the high operational tempo pays valuable dividends in the end by ensuring all of our aircraft missions are met.”

With the focus on education and continuous training, the avionics shop can only improve on their impressive record of excellence. For years to come, the Warhorse avionics division will be ready when the nation calls.  

*For more information about this story please e-mail Cpl. Alex Herron at*

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