AL ASAD, Iraq -- The combat engineers of Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 have a wide variety of skills at hand. They have skills in mine detection, urban reconstruction, and demolitions. Although they only recently received the wing support mission from MWSS-273, they have already gotten their hands dirty.
“We just showed up and we’re already swamped with work,” said Sgt. Micah Elliott, a ‘271 combat engineer. “When someone wants something built, they put in a work request. After that, our operations chief tasks one of the sergeants who checks out the job site prior to starting the job.”
One of the engineers’ current projects involves enhancing the flight line. The project includes repairing a dip in a runway where a fuel line lies and adding another fuel line under the runway. The additional fuel line eliminates the need of running a fuel truck to that area of the flight line.
The engineers spent approximately four days on the current project, working in phases.
“First, we came in and made our cuts in the flight line with the concrete saw,” said Elliot, a Springfield, Tenn., native and the current project manager. “Next we brought in a Bobcat, a small tractor, to break and remove approximately two to three feet of the concrete. Then, we laid the 14-inch pipes with the fuel lines running through them and filled over top with concrete. The concrete takes approximately 20 days to set correctly.”
The Marines of 271 repaired the same dip in the flight line two years ago. The runways naturally deteriorate and give way through use, and need replacing approximately every two years, according to Staff Sgt. Robert M. Uselton, the ‘271 engineer section platoon sergeant.
“If the ground is not thoroughly compacted when you install new fuel lines, the concrete will sink,” said Uselton, a Cowan, Tenn., native.
The engineer section is made up of approximately 30 Marines divided into three squads. Although every combat engineer has received the same basic training, each of them has different strengths depending on where they have been stationed and how they were employed. For the first month of the deployment, each Marine works at every job site so they can gain experience with each type of job.
“Since this is our first month here, I will have every Marine in the section work on each project so they can learn how to do each job,” said Uselton. “Today we’re working on concrete. Tomorrow we could be sweeping a minefield and the next day we could be constructing a building. That’s why they say we’re jacks of all trades, but masters of none.”