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Flight deck Marines : More than just colorful vests

By - | | December 18, 2000

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They may not have the flair or style of the "Fruit of the loom" guys, but when this group of colorful Marines goes to work, they get the job done.Recently Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 conducted flight deck operations aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71).The Marines traded in their coveralls and cammie blouses for red, white, green and brown flight deck jerseys and float coats.For identification and accountability, each department has its own color along with a clear-cut mission. The green shirts are the seat shop, air frames division and avionics division. When out on the flight deck, it is primarily the avionics department's show. If there is any kind of technical problem with the jet's electrical components, these green shirts do a quick sweep of the aircraft and replace the defective parts. Airframe Marines do visible inspections on the skin of the jet, looking for any types of fissures or hydraulic leaks. The seat shop's main role is to ensure the ejection seat works properly."We are the last line of defense," said Cpl. John Jewell, VMFA-251 ejection seats mechanic and Marion, OH. native, "if all else fails, we may be a pilot's last chance for survival." The white shirts are the quality assurance inspectors and the final checkers. The QA rep is the catch all when it comes to over all safety. He watches over the entire process, making sure everyone is doing their jobs and not taking any shortcuts. The final checker is the last man to give the thumbs up. He works from the tip of the nose to jet's exhaust, looking for anything that may have been missed. He ensures the aircraft is locked in properly to the catapult launching system. Then works his way back, making sure all the wings' flaps and rudders are in proper position for take-off. "Seeing one of our Hornets leave safely off the bow of the ship," said Sgt. Britt Meinser, VMFA-251 final checker and Carrollton, Tex. native, "and knowing I am responsible for its departure is a good feeling." The brown shirts are the powerline department : the workhorses of the flight deck crew. They are the plane captains in charge of every faction of the plane up until the moment it heads to the catapult for launch. They cover everything from jet engine repair and fuel system maintenance to griping the birds down at the end of the day. "My job is not done until that jet comes back in from a flight," said Cpl. Tim McEathron, VMFA-251 jet engine mechanic and Portland, Ore. Native, "I take it personal, after all it is my name on that bird." The red shirts are the "bomb guys." More professionally known as Ordnance Department. Their main responsibility is properly loading the aircraft with everything from missiles, rockets, and bombs to 20-mm rounds. Prior to the loading, the red shirts run tests to ensure the jets are capable of releasing their armaments. "Knowing that the ordnance we load," said Cpl. Rene Molina, VMFA-251 ordnanceman and San Francisco, Calif. native, "may have such a meaningful relationship with the future of our country's enemies is truly motivating." "They are the unsung heroes of the Air station," said Capt. Mike "Joey" Coletta, VMFA-251 pilot and Warwick, R.I. native. "Without those guys and their round the clock efforts, our F-18s would be nothing more than multi-million dollar rust collectors."
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