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AL ASAD, Iraq -- Charles D. Sexton, a CH-53E mechanic and Jacksonville, N.C. native, and Justin M. Fera, a CH-53E mechanic from Shelton, Conn., pressure wash the fuselage of a CH-53E Super Stallion before inspecting the aircraft for structural fatigue April 5. Fifteen Marine veterans with Sikorsky Support Services, Inc. are here assisting the squadrons keep the CH-53E helicopters from having structural problems.

Photo by SGT. JUAN VARA

Sikorsky mechs pony up, keep Super Stallions trotting

6 Apr 2005 | Sgt. Juan Vara

The saying ‘Once a Marine, always a Marine’ means whoever earns the title United States Marine retains it for life. True to that motto are the men of Sikorsky Support Services, Inc., and although they`ve left the Corps, they deployed here to help get the mission accomplished.

Day after day, the Sikorsky representatives work on keeping the CH-53E Super Stallions here galloping strong. Comprised of 15 Marine veterans, their level of experience on the helicopter ranges from five to 30 years.

Their job is to help prolong the helicopters’ service in a combat zone, performing repairs on ‘birds’ on a regular basis. Every 30 days a helicopter comes into their hangar for maintenance and it’s returned to the squadron after all discrepancies have been fixed.

“We basically do any maintenance to help the squadrons complete their mission,” said Mark D. Wymer, site supervisor and Jacksonville, N.C., native. “The squadrons have the talent to do the maintenance, but they don’t have the time. That’s why we’re here.”

Since the aircraft here don’t rotate as Marine heavy helicopter squadrons come and go, the Sikorsky representatives help keep the ‘heavy lifters’ in Iraq by preventing them from having structural problems that force them to be sent back to the U.S. for major repairs.

“We’re here to maintain structural integrity of the aircraft,” said Wymer. “If the bird is bad enough to fail an inspection it has to be packed up and sent back for repairs. We’re here to keep those birds in theater.”

The team is originally assigned to Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C., and is scheduled to get back to their friends and families after spending a year here. According to Wymer, there’s another 15-man team already lined up to replace them and they’re just as eager to join the fight.

“You know how it is when you get a bunch of former Marines together,” said Wymer. “Everybody was ready to rock. A lot of the guys come from training squadrons and never had an opportunity to go anywhere with the Corps.”

They don’t wear camouflage uniforms or high and tight haircuts, but they go through the same situations service members here go through and maintain their loyalty to the Corps by helping the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) get the job done in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism.
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