AL ASAD, Iraq -- The strength of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) can be seen at Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 167. The might of ‘167’s UH-1N “Hueys,” and AH-1W “Super Cobras,” is enabled by the Marines who load and arm the ordnance they carry.
The Marines behind the scenes providing and installing all of the weaponry and munitions are the ‘167 ordnance shop. With approximately 30 Marines split into two shifts, the ordnance Marines ensure the Huey and Cobra pilots constantly have ammo under their trigger finger.
“Our work output is seven times higher here in Iraq than it is in the rear,” said Sgt. Robert W. Smith Jr., an ordnance line chief with ‘167. “There’s not one Marine we can perform without.”
The ordnance shop’s day begins by making sure all designated aircraft are prepared for flight. This includes ensuring all the required missiles, rounds, and defensive countermeasures are loaded on each aircraft. If additional aircraft are required for joint tactical air requests or for troops in contact missions, the ordnance crew loads the additional aircraft with munitions. The Huey crew chiefs arm their crew served weapons and the ordnance Marines arm the Cobra before take off.
Before a section, which consists of one Huey and one Cobra, leaves for a mission, a team of ordnance Marines must arm the Cobra. The Cobra pilots move their hands above their heads away from all controls, while the ordnance team leader gives hand signals to a team member who arms each weapon system by removing safety pins. A quality-assurance safety observer ensures that safety and proper procedures are used throughout the process.
“The ordnance Marines are the beginning,” said Capt. Christopher D. Hunt, a Cobra pilot with HML/A-167. “They load the aircraft and make sure everything’s operating correctly. We start the aircraft, they arm us up. We execute the mission and come back. They de-arm us and ask if there were problems with the munitions. So, they are involved with the mission from the beginning to the very end.”
Each helicopter is armed with weapons to compliment each other, making for a well balanced team.
“The Huey can provide an immediate response from any threat against the flight covering a 360 degree radius; this is very advantageous to local security for the flight,” said Hunt, a Lumberton, N.C., native. “The Cobra brings precision, long range, and destructive firepower capability by utilizing the Hellfire and tube-launched, optically tracked, and wire-guided missile systems aboard the aircraft.”
The best part of the day for an ordnance Marine is when an aircraft returns home without any munitions.
“We tend to do what we call an ‘ordnance dance’ if they come back with nothing on the aircraft, which is a tradition,” said Smith, a Little Rock, Ark., native. “It boosts our morale as well as the morale of the pilots and crew chiefs. It makes us happy because it’s gone and we don’t have to see it again.”
The ordnance Marines of ‘167 maintain a high tempo to provide aircraft that are always fully stocked with munitions and ready for combat.
“These are some of the finest Marines in the Corps,” said Gunnery Sgt. James A. D’Errico III, the squadron ordnance chief. “They are multi-faceted in their ability to adjust to extreme conditions and stay focused on mission accomplishment.”