Marines Use Maintenance Day to Focus on Fixing Aircraft
AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq - "Maintenance never rests" is a common phrase said on the flight line aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. Working in overlapping shifts of 12 hours on, 12 hours off, the maintainers are turning wrenches seven days a week to keep the aircraft capable of flying missions.
Keeping the aircraft ready while they are flying missions everyday takes a lot of effort, planning and prioritizing issues with the aircraft to decide which ones need fixing and which ones can still fly. The relief comes on maintenance day, a day when the aircraft are wiped off the flight schedules to give the maintainers an entire day to get hands-on with each aircraft.
The maintenance Marines of Detachment A, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169, spent June 24, conducting a maintenance day, grounding all aircraft for one day to knock out maintenance work without the pressure of a flight schedule.
"This was our first maintenance day for this deployment," said Capt. Peter Mantuano, the HMLA-169 Det. A maintenance officer. "We are getting the chance to look at all these aircraft without being concerned about if it they are needed for a flight today. We do still have aircraft on stand-by but for the most part, this is a full-force maintenance day."
The squadron has two types of aircraft, the AH-1W Super Cobra and the UH-1N Huey, which fly to support various missions in Iraq such as offensive air support, utility support and armed escorts. This wide scope of mission capabilities and two types of aircraft make the detachment useful in a large range of operations, keeping them busy daily.
"We can always be used; we are flying just as much as the squadron before us, so it is important to keep these aircraft healthy," explained Mantuano. "Some of our aircraft are 30 years old or even more. Sometimes it feels like we fix, fly, fix over and over making the role of our maintainers and their efforts extremely important."
Although the maintenance day was taken full advantage of, with work being done on multiple aircraft, the workload was fairly routine, said Staff Sgt. Blake Minckler, the Det. A. flight line chief.
"Maintenance is just something we can't control," said Minckler. "Tomorrow a lot of things could break, but at least today we got to get caught up without worrying about a flight schedule."
The day wasn't all work and no play for the Marines. Maintenance day allowed the Marines to relax and celebrate the day's hard work with a pizza party and a prize raffle.
"Everyone has been so focused on getting into the rhythm out here lately, so it was a good thing to get together, relax and eat some pizza," said Minckler. "It does wonders for the Marines' morale."
The pizza and prizes were purchased with a collection of funds from all the staff non-commissioned officers and officers of the squadron, who raised more than $1,000 for the event, said Master Sgt. Sean McBride, Det. A. senior enlisted advisor.
The get-together was also a chance for the squadron to recognize the efforts of Sgt. Zachary Franks and Cpl. Taylor Gunderson, both UH-1N Huey crew chiefs, by presenting each of them a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for their actions during an in-flight emergency that occurred during training before deploying to Iraq.
"These Marines performed extremely well during the emergency and the biggest credit to them is that they stayed calm throughout," explained McBride.
The prizes were raffled off quickly, the pizza was eaten just as quickly and the Marines stood tall at attention as the award citations were read; but within an hour the Marines were heading out the door to get back to work. Maintenance never rests.
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