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thedrifter
04-18-06, 08:04 AM
CAMP BEUHRING, Kuwait (April 18, 2006) -- With Iraq only a few miles away, Marines and sailors from Medium Helicopter Squadron 166 are training as if they were going into combat tomorrow.

"That's the way we train back in the US and that's the way we train here," said Cpl. LoydScott "Big Worm" Wormell, gunner and crew chief, UH-1N "Huey," HMM-166, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) Camp Pendleton, Calif. "We have to train with that mentality so that we do not become complacent."

Wormell is not the only Marine who has turned things up a notch or two.

Sgt. Ivan E. Sahagun, CH-46 Sea Knight crew chief and weapons and tactics instructor, from Tustin, Calif., said just as the Kuwaiti heat turns up every morning, so does the intensity of his Marines when they show up to work every day. Sahagun said he has seen Marines and sailors up and down the chain of command take the training more seriously.

According to Sahagun the Marines and sailors have responded to the weapons and tactics classes he has been teaching with enthusiasm due to the realization that they may have to use those skills in battle some day.

Some of these classes include crew served weapons firing, conducting emergency procedures and marksmanship improvement techniques.

According to GySgt. Rodney G. Cantrell, flight line chief and CH-46 Sea Knight crew chief, from Manchester, Conn., although he does not expect his unit to be called to action in Iraq, he has noticed that many Marines are moving with a sense of urgency.

On the floor, maintenance is no longer routine. "Birds could be pushing North [into Iraq] at any time, so we have to have all birds mission capable just in case," said Cantrell.

Cantrell said he is amazed by the dedication of everyone in the squadron, from the mechanics, avionics technicians, logistics personnel, right down to the administration Marines.

Through the increased operational tempo, everyone has come together as a team to make sure all aircraft are operational and ready to launch, said Cantrell.

These Marines are committed to not "dropping any launches," said Cantrell. When a bird goes down, "their professionalism and pride takes over and they will troubleshoot until the problem is found and fixed. Even if it means working through chow or staying after hours."

According to Cantrell, the Marines know the important role they play in the success of the mission. They understand, that if that bird doesn’t get fixed, it will not be able to provide the close air support or troop transport to those Marines on the ground; Support that is critical to mission accomplishment.

"Some Marines will work 12, 14 and sometimes 16-hour-days, not because they have to, but because they want to," said Cantrell. "To see this, all you have to do is look to see how many day and night-crew Marines stay after hours to finish a job that started in their shift," said Cantrell.

Working in the desert heat and in a camp where everyone carries a weapon with them wherever they go, Sahagun said he and his Marines are fully aware of what's at stake now.

Make no mistake, said Sahagun, "we are here to prepare for war." Or at least for the possibility of combat, he said.

"We talk about it all the time. We tell all our young Marines if they don't know something, to ask," said Sahagun. "Because the question they get an answer to, may be the one that saves their lives."



Ellie