Photo Information

AL ASAD, Iraq ? Private first class David Ivins an aviation logistics technician prepares to pull a piece of gear for an aircraft in the MALS-26 supply warehouse here, May 17. Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 have achieved a high level of readiness only previously reached when the unit was at home at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

'Patriots' set record highs for readiness in a combat zone

18 May 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

The ‘Patriots’ of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 have recently achieved a remarkable readiness rate of almost 90 percent for the 11 flying squadrons they support throughout Iraq.

Their mission is to provide aviation logistics support, guidance and direction to the flying squadrons of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) and provide intermediate level maintenance for aircraft and aeronautical equipment. Which means they perform repairs on specific engines and request, store, handle, assemble, transport and inventory ammunition; they are instrumental in keeping the birds in the air

The MALS-26 team has been able to better their goal of an 85 percent readiness rate. Meaning 85 percent of all of the squadron’s aircraft are mission capable. These forward deployed aircraft are collectively performing above the Marine Corps Aviation Campaign Plan readiness goals. The most meaningful metric for the ‘Patriots’ is the number of available aircraft delivering ordnance and combat ready Marines on time and on target to support the warfighter’s mission.

“We are really just continuing our operational mindset from New River,” said Lt. Col. Carmine J. Borrelli, commanding officer of MALS-26. “At home we are able to achieve this high amount of readiness, but it was with our aircraft. While here we are supporting only two of our own squadrons from New River, along with aircraft from throughout the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. This success story belongs to the department and division officers, staff non commissioned officers and enlisted Marines in this squadron. With the help and support from Commander Naval Air Forces (East) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing’s Aviation Logistics Department. Our Marines have integrated with 400 Marines and Sailors from different bases while still retaining a belief in our core maintenance and production practices. They all get a great satisfaction knowing they have contributed to the organizations goals.”

The ‘Patriots’ have taken the “Theory of Constraints” concepts practiced and perfected in New River and are transplanted them in Iraq. Previous lessons learned have provided them the ability to do their job more efficiently while deployed to Iraq.

“With all of our forward operating bases we support, maintaining high levels of readiness in specific areas is critical,” Borrelli said. “Improving support to these forward operating bases has required some innovative thinking.”

When MALS-26 arrived in theater getting parts to different forward operating bases took upwards of five days. Now with a new system in place, MALS Marines affectionately call “MALS Express,” in most cases parts are delivered to the forward operating bases in less than a day.

The way MALS has been able to improve part availability to the forward operating bases is due to a joint effort between the maintenance divisions on both levels as well as daily communication with the flying squadrons who need certain parts or MALS support.

“Originally the flying squadrons had to figure out how to move parts in theater without MALS involvement,” said Maj. Ray Rich the operations officer for MALS-26. “But now we have taken over that part of the equation. With the squadrons telling us where they need the part, we take the burden of getting it where it needs to go. We take on more work, but if it improves the MAG’s combat readiness and allows the squadrons to focus on flying, we’ll gladly take that on.”

Once MALS knows where the part is needed, they have a system for putting gear on aircraft already going to certain destinations. They use a system already in place to move personnel throughout the area of operations.

“With the help of Marine Aircraft Group 26 operations, we are able to put in an immediate movement request that gives us a flight that is leaving in the next 24 hours. Usually the request is filled in less time,” Rich said. “The MAG allows us to utilize every available aircraft in order to rapidly replenish essential equipment. This allows us to decrease our response time to about 19 hours.”

Along with getting parts where they need to go, the supply department is also working with the flying squadrons to identify what parts are critical for them to get their aircraft ready to fly missions.

One way supply is helping reduce the burden on the flying squadrons is adjusting the parts pack-up based on demand

MALS-26 supply went back and looked at each pack-up and made sure that they made parts available that were more high in demand and critical to aircraft readiness while taking out other low demand, non-essential parts out of it.

“In Taqaddum alone we adjusted the allowances and moved more than 1,600 parts either in or out of their available inventory,” said Maj. Jeff Bolduc, aviation supply officer with MALS-26. “Doing this greatly improved the effectiveness of our pack up. It allows the flying squadrons more flexibility when they have the part they need already there.”

In addition to operations and supply, the maintenance division plays a vital role in the overall readiness of MALS. Instead of working on parts as they come in, the maintenance division prioritizes them and works on the most critical first.

“We look at the availability of a part when it comes in,” said Chief Warrant Officer Scott Bak, production control officer with MALS-26. “If supply has a lot of one part available then we don’t worry about fixing it right away. We work on the parts that supply might have one of or none on hand. These parts become our highest priority.”

The MALS-26 maintenance division doesn’t measure its effectiveness with repair rates and turnaround times. They measure their success in the readiness of the squadrons they support.

“Our biggest key to success is being proactive and maintaining constant communication with the squadrons,” Bak said. “We don’t just talk to the squadrons once or twice a day. We know what they need as soon as they need it.”

Although MALS-26 has achieved this high readiness rate in the past, Their mission now makes it more critical that they do all they can to keep all of the aircraft in the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing ready for the next mission.

Back in the United States being able to achieve a high level of readiness is good, but now it means so much more. The higher the squadrons readiness the more aircraft that are flying. Providing parts at a high level of efficiency has a domino effect not only does it keep planes in the air, it means ground forces can have air power available when they call for it. It means critical gear and personnel can move in theater. The outcome of high readiness rates means the Marines can continue putting the pressure on insurgents and terrorists.

-For more information about this story please contact Cpl. Herron at herronca@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil

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