Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Okinawa MWSS puts boots on deck for first time

Lance Cpl. Michael Stevens

CAMP FIREBIRD, Iraq (May 15, 2008) – Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, currently assigned to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), is the first III Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) Marine Wing Support Squadron to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The deployment allows most of the Marines a chance to conduct operations in an environment they are not accustomed too.

“We wanted to give our Marines and sailors the opportunity to make a global impact,” said Lt. Col. Matthew R. Crabill, the commanding officer for MWSS-172. “They’ve been all over Asia during the past year, and when asked to deploy here they said ‘yeah, I’ll do that too.’”

The decision to send a 1st MAW support squadron was designed to reduce the deployment rate between squadrons in the other Marine Aircraft Wings.

Until the “Firebirds” transferred authority with MWSS-473 last month, the support duties were upheld by 2nd, 3rd and 4th MAW squadrons respectively; all headquartered in the United States.

Working with foreign militaries and breaching the language barrier is a familiar task to the Okinawa-based Marines.

“Coming from Pacific Command, the Marines are familiar with working with engineers from other countries,” said 2nd Lt. Crystal Serrano, the combat engineer platoon commander with MWSS-172. “The big difference now is we’re in a combat environment and we’re always maintaining a constant state of awareness.”

An MWSS is a multi-facetted unit, capable of many different jobs and missions.
Each day brings something new for the squadron as the Marines perform many functions of aviation ground support aboard Al Asad Air Base and throughout the Anbar Province.

“This is a highly technical unit with 40 to 50 (military occupational specialties) pulling together to complete several functions of aviation ground support,” said Crabill. “Everyone has to be professionally competent in their field, yet ready to become a part of a mission-tailored team at a moments notice.”

The squadron has a command structure focused on small-unit leadership by noncommissioned officers, which along with dedication to complete the mission, is a large part of their success.

“Almost every Marine who had to extend their contract with us in order to make this deployment did so,” said Crabill. “Most of our leaders are Iraq and Afghanistan war-veterans who wanted to be with their Marines and sailors during this deployment. These are all measures of the command’s collective commitment.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

HMH-462 delivers raid to al-Anbar

Cpl. Scott McAdam

AL-ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ (May 8, 2008) – Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), inserted and extracted a raid force here, today.

The “Heavy Haulers,” escorted by attack helicopters from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, 3rd MAW (Fwd), transported more than 40 service members to an Island in the Euphrates River to locate and seize weapons that could potentially be used against Coalition forces.

“Overall I think the mission went really well from the aviation perspective,” said
Maj. Michael A. Carter, director of safety and CH-53E Super Stallion pilot, HMH-462.

The Super Stallion is a vital asset in Iraq because it is the biggest helicopter platform. The CH-53E has the ability to transport a large amount of weight; transporting troops and equipment in combat operations or moving supplies around Iraq, explained Sgt. Keith M. Flick a weapons and tactics crew chief instructor with HMH-462.

“I am truly blessed to be able to do this, to be able to not only serve my country like this, but to serve other Marines,” said Carter. “It’s important to stop and
take a moment to think about how connected we are on a day-to-day basis to the security of our nation as well as security of the region.”

Marines prepare al-Asad for future

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Marines, IA give school back to children

Lance Cpl. Michael Stevens

BAGHDADI, Iraq (May 8, 2008) – A multi-unit task force recently participated in a construction project here which will soon allow local children to return to school.

Combat engineers with Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), teamed with Alpha Company, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion and the Engineer Company, 7th Iraqi Infantry Division, to construct a new site for the Iraqi Army soldiers in town to conduct their military operations.

For more than two years, 3rd Battalion, 27th Brigade, 7th Iraqi Infantry Division, has occupied the town’s school house while maintaining security and controlling traffic in the local area.

The situation has prevented the children from using the building and has forced an over-population of students in the town’s other schools.

The project will allow the school house to be used for its original intent – teaching the young generation of Iraq.

“This is a great opportunity for the Marines and IA to give something back to the town,” said 2nd Lt. Crystal Serrano, the combat engineer platoon commander with MWSS-172. “We’re directly working with the IA engineers for this project and it’s important for them to help build this location in order for the children and local community to have the school back.”

While 3rd CEB heavy-equipment operators fortified the new site, strategically placing barriers, guard houses and concertina wire at the location, MWSS-172 and IA engineers built several Southwest Asia huts for the IA battalion to use, making the site a solid military location.

Leading up to the mission, MWSS-172 Marines and IA engineers pre-fabricated most of the large pieces of the SWA huts aboard Al Asad Air Base, in order to complete the construction in a timely manner once out in the field.

Because of MWSS-172’s high operational-tempo, assets were limited in moving the equipment for the mission.

According to Serrano, the operation would not have happened if the IA engineers didn’t use their trucks to help bring the gear and pre-constructed components to the site.

Once on location, the teams worked day and night, carefully calculating all measurements and dimensions to ensure the longevity of the structures.

“The quickest way al-Anbar province can be prosperous is if we get the Iraqi Army and people in Anbar to work at it,” said Chief Warrant Officer John H. Walter, the support platoon commander for Alpha Company, 3rd CEB. “It’s comforting to know they’re willing to change and they want to change.”

The difference in their attitudes from the beginning of the conflict to now is overwhelming, added Walter.

“By helping these children get back in the classroom, it will further their education and help them learn why the Coalition is here and why we’re helping,” said Gunnery Sgt. Kenneth W. Cumper, the engineer platoon staff noncommissioned officer in charge with MWSS-172. “Making a difference to the children now, will further our relationship with them in the future, when it’s their generation leading the country.”

The final step in the project is to de-militarize the school, which is scheduled to be completed before the start of the next school term.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Ten to one

Cpl. Jessica Aranda
AL ASAD, Iraq (May 1, 2008) –He’s traveled to countries including Japan, Saudi Arabia, Hungary and Australia since his enlistment in 1982. But when he received the deployment roster for his current assignment, he noticed something unique about his upcoming duty here.

Master Gunnery Sgt. Sean P. Jevning’s unit, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, would be deploying with MALS-11, the parent command of his son, Cpl. Robert S. Jevning.

Both father and son work in aviation ordnance, but since Robert’s enlistment two years ago, the duo decided to keep their careers separate to maintain professionalism. Now, they both contribute to the daily missions of MALS-16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).

“We have never worked together until now,” said Sean, who is on his tenth deployment. “We both wanted the same job but we didn’t want our careers interfering with each other. I was cautious when I first found out we would be here together, because of the idea of preferential treatment.”

Robert was born in California when his father was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. From there, he followed his father’s career to Seattle, Wash., Beaufort, S.C., and Okinawa, Japan.
“Growing up, I was fairly adamant about not becoming a Marine,” said Robert. “But as I got older, I got wiser. I made the decision, and haven’t looked back since.”

“I was very proud of my son’s decision,” said Sean. “I expected it, even though he didn’t.”

Robert, who is on his first deployment, recently won the combat meritorious sergeant board for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and is scheduled to be promoted Friday.

“To have my dad here and be able to tell him I won face-to-face was indescribable,” said Robert.

Accomplishments like this one represent how ordnance Marines stand out amongst their peers for their professionalism, explained the father and son.

“I am both professionally and personally proud,” said Sean, a native of Pflugerville, Texas. “I consider myself lucky because of the professionalism and accomplishments of all my Marines. There is also a father’s pride that can’t be described.”

The two Marines say the company of a family member has made the deployment easier for them, and their family back home.

“I think my wife has a good level of comfort knowing we are both here, taking care of each other,” said Sean. “To have him here makes me one of the luckiest men around. Not many people get to go war with their son.”

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Looking ahead; Marines prepare al-Asad for future

Lance Cpl. Michael Stevens
AL-ASAD, Iraq (April 28, 2008) – Marine Wing Communication Squadron 38 is preparing Al Asad Air Base for future military operations by updating the underground wiring system across the base.
During the construction project, Marines replace older equipment with newer, more efficient technology.

Outside plant, or OSP, Marines with MWCS-38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), are responsible for running the fiber and copper lines through duct and manhole systems outside. A separate entity in the squadron is inside plant, which works inside buildings and connects the outside lines with the internal ones to complete the link.

“We’re making all these changes and updates so we have a good product to turn over to the Iraqis down the line,” said Gunnery Sgt. Wesley E. Krohn, the outside plant staff noncommissioned officer in charge with MWCS-38. “We’re always improving the system that’s in place, constantly looking to the future.”

The OSP Marines perform these tasks in three key steps; pull out the old cable, perform a conduit survey and repair if necessary, and run the new cable through the conduit system.

Conduits are wire-protective casings, which when installed correctly, prolong and protect the wires and cables while making it easier to gain access if needed.

During the projects, Marines found that the older conduits were improperly installed, damaged by other dig projects or had filled with dirt and rocks.

The Marines take their time, carefully removing the old casings and installing new ones, ensuring they don’t disturb the other power lines buried in the ground.

“We could have been selfish and just replaced the wires and cables, but we thought about the future and wanted to make it easier for anyone who will be working with the system down the line,” said Cpl. Joseph W. Gajewski, a team leader and ground radio technician with MWCS-38. “These jobs will make the system more effective and efficient for the future.”

Thursday, May 1, 2008

‘Batting’ a thousand

Cpl. Jessica Aranda
AL WALEED, Iraq (April 20, 2008) – A small team of lance corporals, corporals and one sergeant augmented from units of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) hold the responsibility of screening 100 percent of personnel coming through Iraq’s second busiest port of entry.

The “BATS” Marines, nicknamed after the Biometrics Automated Toolset electronics system they use, photograph, document and scan the fingerprint and irises of each person crossing the border.

Programmed into their BATS system are the profiles of highly-valued individuals and wanted insurgents. The equipment alerts the Marines when a profile matches that of a terrorist or foreign fighter and they call Multi National Force – West headquarters for guidance on detaining the suspect.

Should MNF-West deem detainment necessary, the Marines have 24 hours to deliver the detainee to Camp Korean Village, and 48 hours to transport them to Al Asad Air Base.

“I think our job is very important,” said Cpl. Kevin Davis, a member of the team and Dallas native. “The transition teams here are enforcing rules and training the Iraqis, but we are the only team dedicated to finding and eliminating terrorists from entering the country.”

The team goes out at different times to avert possible threats and suicide bombers from planning any operation against the BATS Marines. Once they patrol to the port, the group stops all vehicles and begins scanning the irises of each passenger.

The Marines “BAT” thousands of individuals each week, ensuring no terrorist crosses through the border by hiding in the realms of innocent citizens.

“We catch as many people as we can to prevent them from endangering the Marines and Iraqi people down the line,” said Cpl. Conrad Keoni, the BATS noncommissioned officer in charge and a Farmington, N.M., native.

The BATS team is a 60-day augment, and the Marines do most of their training on the job. In their short time here, they have learned basic the basic Arabic language and customs, and honed combat skills.

“Being a part of the BATS team is completely different from my job,” said Cpl. Steven Aguilar, a San Antonio, Texas, native and administrative clerk with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38. “I got the opportunity to obtain real combat experience. I also learned that the Iraqi’s are very hospitable people verses what is shown on TV. ”