JULY 7, 2016, MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, North Carolina – Maintenance is paramount to the mission,” said Capt. Eric Albright, the future operations officer and an AV-8B Harrier pilot with VMA-231. “There is no way we can execute our mission without the Marines in charge of maintenance doing their job. It is the center of gravity for any flying squadron.”
The Marines conduct maintenance on the aircraft based on the type of mission the squadron is slated to accomplish at the time. However, daily tasks are completed to ensure continuous operational readiness. Some of the daily include oiling and refueling the aircraft, assessing the tires, and performing inspections on the engines to ensure no hazardous foreign object debris is in them.
After any maintenance is performed, the designated collateral duty inspector reviews the results before sending it on to the next step in the maintenance readiness process.
To ensure the aircraft receive the amount of care required, the squadron’s maintenance personnel are broken down into shifts, allowing continuous needed maintenance to be conducted. When home and not preparing for a deployment the Marines are divided into three, eight-hour shifts: day, mid, and night shift. When preparing for a deployment they are divided into two, 12 hour shifts: day and night.
These shifts are manned by approximately 120 Marines, who are in charge of maintenance within the squadron. These Marines are not assigned to a specific aircraft; they work on each aircraft the squadron has assigned to it.
“Every little thing matters when it comes to maintenance,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Lewis, a fixed-wing aircraft airframe mechanic with the squadron. “You have to focus on the little things for the big things to fall into place. With every job, big or small, the little jobs you do add up to the big things. Yes, it’s difficult, but when you see the bird take off, it’s a good feeling because you know it’s flying because of the little things you did.”
The maintenance side of the squadron consists of different sections, or shops, including: the seat shop, flight equipment, ordnance, airframes, avionics, power line, maintenance administrative shop, maintenance control shop, and the tool room. While each Marine is specifically placed within each section according to their military occupational specialty, they still assist each other as needed.
One example of a maintenance job that requires multiple specialties is removing or installing a Harrier engine. For that job, it takes approximately seven to eight Marines.
“Maintenance allows us to have mission ready aircraft at any time,” said Sgt. Bryan Walters, a work-zone supervisor with the squadron. “The maintenance being performed can vary from day-to-day. But it allows us to be operationally ready and our readiness level to remain high. Without the maintenance being conducted the mission wouldn’t happen. If the maintenance isn’t done, jets don’t fly.”
However, what maintenance each Marine performs on the aircraft depends on what qualifications they possess. Marines throughout the shops hold various qualifications in relation to their military occupational specialty training.
Effective training plays a pivotal role in the Marine Corps, and the Marines with VMA-231 exemplify that by conducting training every Monday on various maintenance topics. Classes taught to the Marines range from how aircraft fuel and engine systems work to technical training, specific to what jobs the Marines may perform.
“I believe the Marines are doing an outstanding job of maintaining the aircraft and keeping them mission ready,” said Walters. “We have very old aircraft here at VMA-231, but they are still flying. So that is a testament in itself. If old aircraft are still flying, then the maintenance being done is top-notch and being done phenomenally.”