ABOARD THE USS ENTERPRISE --
The Thunderbolts of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 and the Sidewinders of Navy Strike Fighter Squadron 86 wrapped up combat operations Nov. 24 and began their long journey home.
Although combat operations have ceased for the two Fightertown-based squadrons and the rest of Carrier Air Wing One, the Marines and sailors still have a lot of work to accomplish before their homecoming.
With the majority of the flying days complete, the squadrons now have the task of beginning the long pack-up process and preparing to off-load the aircraft carrier.
The Marines and sailors behind the scenes of this tedious process are the embarkation and supply service members.
“We are the coordinators of the chaos,” said Cpl. Jason Payne, the Thunderbolts amorer and an embarkation specialist. “It takes a lot of time to plan the off-load process and to make it go smoothly.”
The embarkation specialists have been preparing for the pack-up process for many months.
“We actually started requesting materials and supplies for the off-load during the first months of the deployment,” said Pfc. Evan Herrera, an embarkation specialist for the Thunderbolts. “It takes many hours of planning and preparation to make sure this operation gets done in the short amount of time allotted for the evolution.”
“Getting supplies such as bubble wrap, banding kits and tape out to the ship can take some time,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Josue Negron, the Sidewinders leading petty officer of material control. “That’s why the squadrons have to start preparing so far in advance.”
The pack-up process may take a long time to plan, but the squadrons have just a few days to actually complete the task.
“We are scheduled to start packing up all of the squadron’s belongings two nights before we are scheduled to get off the ship,” Payne said. “We will pack everything from tools and tool boxes, to combat gear and weapons.”
Overall, the squadrons estimate they will off-load more than 100,000 pounds of gear and equipment a piece. Each squadron will use approximately 175 pallets and 125 tri-wall containers to pack and ship their gear.
Once the equipment is packed and the ship arrives in port, the embarkation and supply service members will ensure the squadrons’ gear is placed into trucks that will transport it back to Beaufort.
“We will have trucks waiting for us when we get into port,” Negron said. “Making sure the trucks are there and locked-on, is something that is very important to making the move successful.”
Although the off-loading of the squadrons’ equipment involves a long planning process and a lot of hard work, once the job is complete, the Marines and sailors will be glad to have their gear and thankful to be home safely.