AL ASAD, Iraq -- The Marines in a little known division of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 support the flying squadrons here in an enormous way. They are mechanics and electricians, and while their skills aren’t used to repair or maintain aircraft, keeping the helicopters and fighter jets running could not be accomplished without them.
Responsible for maintaining and repairing equipment used by aircraft mechanics, the Marines in the Ground Support Equipment division of MALS-26 are invaluable to the mission of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).
The gear they maintain includes maintenance cranes, maintenance stands, aircraft jacks, hydraulic servicing carts, tow tractors, power washers, mobile air conditioners, mobile electric power plants, weapons loaders, and other equipment essential for aircraft mechanics to keep the aircraft ready to fight.
Master Sgt. Randy L. Hilderbrand, division chief and St. Clair, Mo., native, said the division has a pool of gear the squadrons can check out and use as needed. If the gear breaks, it’s taken back to the division to be swapped or repaired on the spot.
All the gear, whether it is on their lot or at one of the squadrons, is on a preventive maintenance cycle and the Marines track it down to ensure it’s in working condition and serves its purpose. Even if the equipment is at one of the forward operating bases throughout the Al Anbar province, these Marines travel to make certain the equipment stays in the best possible condition.
“We do the best we can to make sure the gear is ready for the squadrons to use so they can continue to support the fight,” said Lance Cpl. Seth Pincus, mechanic originally from Leesburg, Fla.
And keeping approximately 700 pieces of gear in working order is not exactly a walk in the park. The equipment has been in Iraq for almost 20 months and the Marines are going the extra mile to keep it as good as new.
“The gear takes a beating here,” said Hilderbrand. “It’s in an austere environment and has already been used for one solid year and going on its second year. As long as we have mechanics and electricians to fix it we’ll be good.”
All the Marines share that positive attitude and it’s one of their most important tools. They maintain a good relationship with representatives from the flying squadrons and work hard to make sure they get what they need. “Everyone is treated like family here,” said Lance Cpl. Shane Hunter, a maintenance administrative clerk and Cherokee County, Ala., native.
Generally overshadowed by pilots, crew chiefs and aircraft mechanics, the ground support Marines contribute to the security and stability of Iraq every step of the way.
“There’s no air support without ground support,” said Hilderbrand. “These guys are who make it happen. They’re happy to turn wrenches without any complaints and I couldn’t have asked for better guys.”
- For more information about the Marines reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org -