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04-15-03, 12:07 PM
Maintenance/Ordnance Marines Work Around the Clock

By U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John C. DiDomenico
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

DEPLOYED LOCATION, Kuwait They crawl over and around the aircraft like a colony of ants. Some ensure the aircraft is in top mechanical working condition. Others ensure it's loaded with the proper armament for the upcoming mission.
The maintenance and ordnance Marines of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S. C., work day and night ensuring their aircraft and pilots accomplish their missions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to Lt. Tate A. Buntz, maintenance material control officer, the "Hawks" have flown approximately 830 hours during more than 400 sorties.

"We're flying Forward Air Control and Tactical Air Control missions," the Florida native said."However, we also provide direct air support and take out targets of opportunity."

Throughout the day, powerline, avionics, seat shop and ordnance Marines work feverishly to maintain the aircraft. They perform 8 to 12 hours of maintenance for every hour an aircraft flies. They can prepare an aircraft for a mission in approximately 45 minutes.

According to Master Sgt. William E. Collins, ordnance chief, it's a continuous cycle of turning the aircraft around.

"We load them as fast as we can," Collins said. "Our trailers go out loaded and come back empty and ready to take another load out depending on the mission configuration."

For the seat shop Marines their days are "feast or famine," according to Gunnery Sgt. Angie M. Jefferies, seat shop staff NCOIC, who hails from Pennsylvania.

"We deal a lot with the aircraft's environment controls," she said. "We're one of the easier shops to work in. Some days we're as busy as the powerline or other sections. During the days we aren't busy, we are prepared to assist any way we can."

According to Staff Sgt. Thomas E. Monroe, powerline division chief, the environment is challenging for the crews.

"Although the sand and dust gets into everything, heat and the non-stop pace pose the biggest challenges for our aircraft and Marines," the New York native said.

Despite their grueling schedule, the "Hawks" maintenance and ordnance crews are performing exceptionally well, according to Buntz and Monroe.

"Our squadron's doing great," Buntz concluded. "The jets are holding up well and the crews are a good team."

Monroe agreed, stating the Marines have performed well in accomplishing their mission. "They've met every challenge they've been tasked with," he said. "They have far exceeded my expectations."


Marine Sgt. Brad A. Applegate, a plane captain with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 "Hawks", cleans the canopy of a F/A-18 Hornet prior to a mission. The Hawks maintenance and ordnance crews work round the clock to ensure their aircraft are in top mechanical working condition and loaded with the proper armament for their missions. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. John C. DiDomenico