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AL ASAD, Iraq ? Corporal Anthony Harper, a native of Lithia Springs, Ga., and Cpl. Sherwin Starks, a native of Winder, Ga., both F/A-18 Hornet mechanics with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 142, perform a post-flight inspection minutes after the aircraft was parked on the Gator flightline here. The powerline division works two shifts, working 12-hours each, everyday.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Powerline keeps Flying Gators soaring

8 Jul 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Since the Gators of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 142 arrived in Iraq in March, the powerline shop has been at the forefront of their success in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Gators have flown more than 3,500 flight-hours while completing more than 1,500 sorties since their arrival. The high numbers of mishap-free flying is a testament to the skill of the entire maintenance crew and the powerline shop.

The powerline shop is made up of what was formerly known as the power plants division, which maintains the engines and fuel lines and the line division. The line division was made up of the plane captains, who gave each aircraft a thorough inspection before and after each flight.

“The Navy and Marine Corps team combined the power plants and line division years ago to create the powerline division,” said Gunnery Sgt. David Hicks, the Gators’ powerline division chief and Havelock, N.C., native. “Ever since then every new powerline Marine works to get his qualifications to be a plane captain.”

Plane captains have to be a jack of all trades when it comes to their aircraft. They have to be proficient in each division’s specialty.

“The plane captains have to know avionics, airframes and everything else about their F/A-18 Hornets,” said Hicks. “They are the last person to see it before it launches and the first one to see it upon its return, so having the knowledge of all the different aspects of the aircraft is a must.”

The Gators are deployed as the first reserve tactical fighter squadron in support of combat operations in more than 50 years. Being a reserve unit, the Gators faced unique circumstances while preparing to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In most cases, active duty squadrons have a three-to six-month work-up cycle for their deployments. The Gator’s had, six weeks to get their unit ready to deploy.

“They have remained positive about the experience keeping their focus on the mission first and foremost. The fact that we were deploying so quickly took a lot of them by surprise,” Hicks said. “We have Marines who have a range of commitments that had to be taken care of quickly so we could be activated, trained and deployed here.”

Since being activated, Marines in the powerline division have demonstrated their knowledge of the aircraft, adaptability to any situation and their leadership skills.

“Their ability to take charge of a situation and make things happen is the Marines’ best trait,” Hicks said. “Just their knack to be Marines and get the job done is impressive.”

From the beginning, the Marines have been poised and ready to contribute to the fight.

“From the moment they told us we were deploying, I was happy for the opportunity,” said Cpl. Sherwin Starks, a powerline mechanic and Winder, Ga., native. “I’m proud to be here. It is a privilege to play such a vital role in the success of preparing our aircraft for the fight.”

With the powerline Marines always keeping a close eye on the aircraft, they are able to spot the smallest defect before it turns into a big problem.

Keeping aircraft in the best condition possible and ready for anything is an important mission the powerline Marines successfully carry out. They take their job seriously and are proud to help the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing forge a brighter future for the people of Iraq. 

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

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