AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- From sun up to sun down and throughout the night, the expeditionary airfield Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 spend their days repairing and making improvements to the airfield here.
The expeditionary airfield division is made up of Marines who perform a myriad of tasks that range from painting and marking the airstrips to maintaining the lighting systems in the harsh Iraqi environment. Not only does their effort ensure safe arrival and departure of Marine and coalition aircraft here, but they have traveled throughout the Al Anbar building and renovating landing zones in order to facilitate operations through the western region of Iraq.
On more than 10 other bases, the Sand Shark’s expeditionary airfield team has constructed more than 20 helicopter pads to better facilitate air operations.
“Our Marines have done an extraordinary job with setting up the airfields at the different bases,” said Chief Warrant Officer Stephen Rudinski, officer-in-charge and Wellsboro, Pa., native. “All the work they have done here is a testament to their work ethic.”
When the Sand Sharks arrived in February, the expeditionary airfield Marines hit the ground running, improving the airfield and ensuring it was within operational standards.
“We spent the first two months re-spacing the lights for the aircraft at night and have been repainting the markings on all of the runways and taxiways since then,” said Lance Cpl. Devin Walker, an expeditionary airfield crewmember and Tulare, Calif., native. “We have used more than 150,000 gallons of paint to bring our airfield up to our standards of excellence.”
The expeditionary airfield Marines work tirelessly to ensure the airfield is ready for aircraft at all times.
“We are the backbone of the Marine wing support squadron,” Walker said. “Without us many of the other divisions in our airfield operations company would not have a job to do. If the runways weren’t properly marked then aircraft would never be able to land and our other divisions wouldn’t have a job.”
“The expeditionary airfield Marines are an extremely valuable asset to all flightline operations,” said Capt. David Olson, the airfield operations company commander with MWSS-371. “Even though they don’t have one of the most glamorous jobs, flightline operations would cease without them. They are responsible for all lighting and marking of the airfield so conducting flight operations, especially at night, would be an impossible feat without them.”
With the support they provided the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, the Sand Shark expeditionary airfield crew understands the important role they play in the fight to make Iraq a safer, more stable place to live for its citizens.
“It feels great to be here and do my part,” Walker said. “Serving here is an honor and a privilege anyone would be proud of.”
“These Marines have surpassed all expectations anyone has had for them,” Rudinski said. “They have a real thankless job, but they do it correctly and very well. They have accomplished everything that has been asked of them and I couldn’t ask for a better crew to serve with.”
As Operation Iraqi Freedom continues, the Sand Sharks will continue to improve runways throughout the Al Anbar province. The expeditionary airfield Marines have demonstrated their willingness to take on the long and tedious projects that will make life easier on their counterparts for years to come.
*For more information on this story please contact Cpl. Alex Herron at email@example.com*