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AL TAQADDUM, Iraq ? Lance Cpl. Ryan Merckberger, a welder with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 and native of Olive, Okla., cuts a metal rod during construction of the pre-engineered steel buildings, called K-Span?s, the Sand Sharks are building for the unmanned aerial vehicle squadron here. Merckberger is the only welder on the construction site and is responsible for all cutting and welding that may be needed for the project.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Sand Sharks team up for Pioneers

23 Jun 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 is adding the finishing touches to four new structures here.  The squadron, referred to as the ‘Sand Sharks’ are giving one unit a new place to call home. 

Since arriving here almost six months ago, the personnel of Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 have worked from tents and other wooden structures all of which were in need of repair.  That’s changing now. 

More than 20 Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 are building the squadron’s new work spaces to help.

“The tents we have now are developing holes and tears in the material,” said 1st Lt. Joseph T. Whittington, the logistics officer with VMU-2. “Having our equipment out of the elements will be a big help for any future deployments here.”

Not only will the unit’s command and control center receive an upgrade, but a new maintenance facility with hangars for their Pioneer unmanned aerial aircraft will also be built before the project is completed next year.

“We use wooden sheds for hangars that were built by the previous unit here,” Whittington said, a St. Louis, Mo., native. “They are starting to fall apart so we decided on something more [sturdy].” 

The Sand Sharks should have the first two K-spans, which are pre-engineered steel buildings, completed in September and the remaining maintenance area and hangars by early next year.  Multiple sections from the support squadron will work together to accomplish their part of the mission. 

“Since the first two K-spans will be used as office spaces our utilities section will have to build walls, put in air conditioning and make sure each office has power outlets,” said Sgt. Jose Lugo, a combat engineer with the Sand Sharks and Chicago native. “We are working with many different sections of our unit. Without each one we could never accomplish our mission.”

The heavy equipment, utilities and motor transportation sections all work together to complete the mission. Four Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24 also help with the project mixing and pouring the concrete floor of the structures.

“This project has a lot of moving parts. Without just one section pulling their weight we could never get these K-spans built,” Lugo said.

With the teamwork the Sand Sharks have in all of their missions this project is another opportunity for them to perform as a unit. Pulling assets from most of their sections and even working closely with the Seabees, MWSS-371 proves that no task is too big for the squadron.

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

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