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Fightertown’s night crew burns the midnight oil

By Cpl. Jenn Eagelman | | November 21, 2008


At the end of the work day, when most Air Station personnel are heading to their homes to relax and unwind, a second shift of midnight workers are on their way to the flightline to start a long night’s work.

These Marines and sailors ensure that each squadron’s aircraft stay operational as much as those who work during the day; they just do it using flashlights in pitch black darkness throughout the wee hours of the night.

“We usually work from about 4 p.m. to sometimes 4 a.m. or later,” said Sgt. Corey Roman, an ordnance technician with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533. “We usually cut out about 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., but if there are extra repairs that need to be completed from the day, we will stay until the work is done.”

While the Air Station’s day crew concentrates their efforts on launching and recovering the F/A–18 Hornets, the night crew is usually able to perform more scheduled and detailed maintenance with very little interruptions.

“We do most of the work to the jets at night,” said Lance Cpl. Kyle Waters, a plane captain with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312. “Usually during the day there are a lot of distractions and they have to deal with flight operations more than we do. You get a lot of good experience when most of your time at work is focused on the maintenance side of things, so I enjoy night crew. Whether changing tires or swapping parts, we are always fixing something.”

Due to the amount of uninterrupted time they have to work on the aircraft, individuals that work on night crew may have the upper hand on the learning curve. At times the late hours they work can act as a double-edged sword when they have any administrative matters or medical appointments to take care of.

“Even though you get to learn a lot on night crew, there are some disadvantages,” Roman explained. “Anything you have to do, like medical appointments or safety briefs, has to be done during daytime hours in your off time. It can make it seem as though you’re always on the clock.

Like ‘oh I’ve only got two hours to get this done before work.’ You get used to it though and being on night crew can be a lot of fun.”

The general mission of night crew stays the same whether any of the squadrons are stationed here at Fightertown, forward deployed or aboard an aircraft carrier. Whether flight operations take place during the day or night, a crew of maintainers is working to keep the jets in the sky and mission ready 24-hours a day.

“They really have to be able to work on both ends of the spectrum - be solid troubleshooters while launching and recovering aircraft,” said Col. Gregg Brinegar, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 31. “At the end of the day, if we do not have aircraft that are fully mission capable for the next day’s schedule, training is impacted greatly.”