Photo Information

As Marines put the final touches on the first big top, Cpl. Terence Carter, one of the combat engineers from Marine Wing Support Squadron 272, and native of New Bern, N.C., nails down angle bars to the base of the second Big Top, a KC-130J Hercules is visible in the background.

Photo by Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan

Herculean effort builds big tops

11 Oct 2005 | Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan

Sand storms, unrelenting sunlight and the constant flow of dust can wreak havoc on the electrical parts of an aircraft’s engine.

To combat this problem, Marines from Marine Aerial Refueler and Transport Squadron 252 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 have begun to build three big top shelters to safely store their KC-130J Hercules at Al Asad, Iraq.

“There is definitely a sense of accomplishment building these,” said Pvt. Joel Good, an avionics electrician with VMGR-252 and native of Rosemund, Calif. He is one of 10 Marines from the squadron working on the project. “I’ve enjoyed the good, hard work. These big tops will provide protection for our birds. You don’t want dust getting in the engines.”

Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 is providing two combat engineers, as well as the heavy equipment needed to build the big tops.

“The combat engineers are showing these Marines how to build,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Howe, the project foreman from MWSS-272, and native of Oxford, Maine. “We are two weeks into the building, and everything is running smoothly. It took us a little while to find all the parts, but we are good to go now, and we have everything we need.”

Master Sgt. James M. Hunter, the fixed wing and rotary maintenance chief for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd), has been involved with the project since its initial stages in March.
He said the requirement was based on the fact that temperatures in this area are extremely hot and the glass cockpit of the KC-130J makes it even hotter with the aircraft parked on the runway.

“We are already ahead of our original time schedule,” said Hunter, a native of West Palm Beach, Fla. “This is mainly due to the Marines from VMGR-252, and the work ethic these young Marines have. They are building the first big tops for KC-130Js in the entire Marine Corps, and they are doing an outstanding job.”

One of the most difficult tasks the Marines tackle is drilling into the concrete, said Howe. There are 28 uprights per big top and each upright requires eight anchor bolts drilled into the concrete on the flightline.

Howe said he is impressed with the work the Marines are doing, especially since the Marines from VMGR-252 are adapting from their regular flightline duties to become construction workers.    

“It’s a different challenge than working on planes,” said Lance Cpl. James Preston, an airframes mechanic with VMGR-252 turned construction worker. “Some days, we bust our (rears). Putting the tarps on, getting them clapped onto the metal, it’s all really hard to do when the rubber gets hot and sticks to the metal, it just doesn’t move.”

Although Preston, a native of Franklin County, Va., said he never thought he would be doing construction work in Iraq, he said he knows the big tops will provide protection for his squadrons’ birds and is glad they are doing it.

“These are hard, motivated workers,” said Cpl. Terence Carter, a combat engineer from MWSS-272 working on the big tops, and native of New Bern, N.C.. “This is my first time doing construction of this size and it has been a good experience. I’m eager to see the outcome of this project.”

The building of the big tops will provide protection for the KC-130Js and has shown the versatility of the Marines of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

“This is the first time we have taken aircraft mechanics and turned them into major construction builders, and we’re doing it with great success,” said Hunter. “I have been around aviation Marines for more than 23 years and each year they show me a new side and prove there is nothing we can’t do, from putting birds in the sky to now putting hangars in the sky. I am proud to be part of this project.”

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