MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Since the tragedy of Sept. 11, news has flooded the air waves of the heroic deeds over the skies and on the ground against the terrorist network Al-Qaeda.
Families at home watched jets take off from aircraft carriers armed with the latest weapon technology. But rarely did they see the service members responsible for maintaining and preparing the weapons of war.
The Marines of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251's ordnance section were the first to watch their work in action over the skies of Afghanistan.
"It feels good to make a difference in the war on terror," said Sgt. Corey M. Locker, '251 ordnance supervisor. Locker was the night crew ordnance supervisor aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt where the squadron was deployed. "We were the first Marine squadron to act in retribution against the terrorists."
The ordnance Thunderbolts were responsible for loading more than 450,000 pounds of ordnance for 700 combat sorties during their six-month deployment.
Years, months and, for some, days of training at places such as the Combined Arms Exercise in Twentynine Palms, Calif., paid off.
"Every piece of ordnance we placed on the aircraft that was supposed to be released came through perfectly," said Staff Sgt. Dwayne F. Alston, T-Bolt ordnance non-commissioned officer in charge. "Not one jet failed in its mission, at our hands, which is a major accomplishment on our part. We got lots of compliments from pilots for the hard work we did."
Alston, a Bronx, N.Y., native found a deeper meaning to ordnance's drive for perfection during Operation Enduring Freedom.
"I grew up with family in the Manhattan area, 25 blocks away from the World Trade Center," Alston said. "Before I joined the Marines, I used to work in several offices at the Center. Thankfully, no one I know of yet was hurt, but our justification was 'you poke us, we bleed, now we poke you.'"
The ordnance T-Bolts' effort not only came from training, but from their ability to work as a team.
"We're a close-knit team with no personal problems against each other," Lance Cpl. Ryan M. Long, T-Bolt ordnance technician from Alton, Ill. "We worked so well that we ran over to the other squadrons' ordnance sections to help them out when they asked for assistance."
Bombs on their way to the frontlines not only delivered destruction to the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda, but also messages written in chalk on the shells of the ordnance.
"We had a few colorful messages for them like 'Eat this,' but the majority of them said, 'This is for New York' or 'the Pentagon,'" said Lance Cpl. Jason Tisdale, '251 ordnance technician from El Cagon, Calif.
After six months afloat, supporting America's war against terrorism, the squadron returned from their successful mission.
"We almost didn't want to leave until the job was done, but 159 days without coming to port is rough," Locker said. "We've got the next best job behind the pilots: loading the bombs that flew over Afghanistan."