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AL ASAD, Iraq ? Corporal Jennifer Massana, an F/A-18 airframe mechanic with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 and Miami, native, services the nose landing gear of a fighter jet here July 25. The airframes division is responsible for helping conduct scheduled maintenance inspections on every Bengal aircraft every 200 hours it is flown.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Fighting Bengal airframes division keeps Hornets buzzing

27 Jul 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

As the Fighting Bengals of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 prepare to return stateside, their Marines can reflect on the great work they accomplished while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The different maintenance shops can take pride in the fact that they contributed to their unit’s success by providing quality aircraft, ready for combat, time and time again.

The Marines of the airframes division are just a part of the Bengals who made the squadron maintenance Marines stand out in Iraq. The airframes Marines have contributed more than 15,000 man-hours while completing more than 1,800 maintenance repairs and 42 scheduled maintenance inspections on the Bengals’ aircraft.

The airframes mechanics start their day performing general checks on all of the aircraft’s landing gear, struts and gauges. They fix or make adjustments as necessary to ensure each aircraft is ready for the day’s mission.

“After the general inspection of the aircraft at the beginning of the shift we make repairs throughout the day as the flight schedule dictates,” said Cpl. Richele Smart, an airframes mechanic with VMFA(AW)-224. “We are also available when aircraft launch in case we need to troubleshoot a problem before take-off.”

Since arriving here in January, the airframes division, as well as the rest of the maintenance crew, has seen the maintenance tempo come in waves. At times it seems there may not be enough hours in a day to finish all of the required tasks.

“One cause for our maintenance routine is the 200-hour scheduled maintenance, or phase inspections,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Koczkodan, the day crew airframes supervisor and Framingham, Mass., native. “Because of the high operational tempo here, when one aircraft needs an inspection a couple of them need it as well so we spend a bulk of our time completing the phase inspections.”

Phase inspections require taking the aircraft apart to inspect the different components for quality and safety after every 200 hours of flight.

The airframes shop has completed 42 phase inspections since the beginning of their deployment gaining a lot of experience and increasing their proficiency as the months have passed.

“Back home it used to take us two to five days to complete an inspection on one aircraft,” Koczkodan said. “Here we have been able to complete a full phase inspection in 12 to 36 hours. It is a testament to the experience and proficiency our Marines are gaining out here.”

The airframes Marines began their deployment with a relatively young shop. Most of their Marines were recent additions to the unit, who only just graduated from their military occupational specialty school before this deployment.  

“After this experience, I know I can send any Marine to take care of a problem on any aircraft and they will be able to take care of it without having anyone stand over them,” said Cpl. Jennifer Massana, an airframes mechanic with VMFA(AW)-224 and Miami native.

“In this seven-month deployment, I would say that all of our airframe mechanics have gained two or three years of maintenance experience,” Koczkodan said. “I am continuously surprised with our junior Marines’ ability to crank out work. They are turning out a great quantity of work along with a quality product.”

For seven months the airframes Marines have spent 14 hours a day, seven days a week with each other. The Marines have been able to gain a sense of camaraderie in their young shop while learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“Knowing my Marines different abilities and strengths helps our efficiency,” said Koczkodan. “By having the right people on the job we can effectively accomplish our mission.”

The airframes Marines will look back with pride on all the time spent preparing the Bengals’ Hornets to fly.

“I’m glad I am here,” said Lance Cpl. Brian Bailey, an airframe mechanic with VMFA(AW)-224 and Sacramento, Calif., native. “It is a lot harder and a faster pace here. We are able to do more out here because the need for maintenance is critical to keep our aircraft in the fight.”

As the Bengals finish a successful deployment all of their achievements can be traced back to the efficiency and dependability of the airframes division and the entire maintenance crew. Without their hard work in the harsh conditions of Iraq’s desert not a single sortie would have been flown or piece of ordnance dropped in support of the unit’s quest to support the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing in forging a brighter future for the people of Iraq.

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