AL ASAD, Iraq -- A few Marines in the Ordnance Division of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 (Reinforced) live by the way of the gun. They lock and load a rock CD, fire up the boom box and blast the jams as they go about their daily duties tuning up the most important instruments in an orchestra of destruction.
Miles away from the rest of civilization here, the Marines from the division’s Gun Shop are literally under the gun whenever the pressure is on.
Their job is to perform routine inspections and repairs on guns, cannons, rifles, turrets, and various other armaments.
Comprised of aviation ordnance technicians from almost every aviation logistics squadron in the Corps, fixed- and rotary-wing and active and reserve forces, the Gun Shop is a well-oiled machine that gears its efforts toward keeping the firepower in its best form.
“At first there was friction because everyone is used to doing things the way they do back at their own squadron,” said Cpl. Jonathan R. Caruthers a native of Poca, Wash., reinforcing MALS-26 out of MALS-31 in Marine Corps Air Station, Beaufort, S.C. “After a while it all came together. A lot of the people here have worked together before either at Desert Talon, the combined arms exercise or the weapons and tactics instructors’ course.”
Working 12-hour shifts day and night, the 10 Marines in the shop combine their expertise to ease the heavy workloads. If a large number of equipment goes in for repairs from a specific ‘aircraft community,’ Marines from the other community jump in to help get the gear back in the fight as fast as possible.
“We try to let the rotary-wing guys cross train with the fixed-wing guys and vice versa,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon D. Mitchell, senior collateral duty inspector for rotary-wing guns originally from Lexington, S.C. “The quality of our repairs is our number one priority and training the Marines comes second. We train the guys who are working for us and make sure they learn how to do things right so we don’t have to make them tear it down and re-do it.”
Mitchell, in his second tour here in two years, talks the talk and walks the walk. A year ago he was attached to MALS-16 and gained a great deal of experience. He’s now in charge of conducting inspections to ensure all repairs are performed in accordance with the manuals, and all gear is returned to the squadrons in the best condition possible. Caruthers is his fixed-wing guns counterpart.
They know the repair manuals like the back of their hands and not one gun goes back to the squadron before they ensure the repairs were done right.
“Unless there’s a major problem with the weapon we’ll fix it here,” said Caruthers. “If there’s something we have to send back to the States for repairs we break down the gun and just send out the damaged component.”
The Gun Shop’s workload varies from time to time, but the morale is constantly upbeat. Although separated from where the rest of the squadron works and lives, the shops in the ordnance compound receive a large number of care packages from family, friends and other supporters. “It’s great to have the American public supporting us, there’s lots of helpful items in the packages they send,” said Lance Cpl. Richard D. Fore, aviation ordnance technician and Gastonia, N.C., native.
They’re not on the front lines getting into firefights with insurgents. They’re not flying the aircraft providing aerial support. But it’s thanks to the quality of the work these Marines perform that those on the ground and in the air enjoy continued success in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism.