USS Enterprise --
A temporary assigned duty Marine must ‘hit the ground running’ once attached to a shop and usually must adapt using the skills and their ability to learn to accomplish their goals. Through the callous wind, blinding sun and rocking ship one TAD Marine is found jumping at every opportunity to lead and learn while making the squadron’s aircraft safer and more efficient.
Cpl. William Gillespie, of Westerville, Ohio, is an intermediate-level F/A-18 Hornet powerplants mechanic from Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic aboard Naval Air Station, Oceana, Va. As an I-level mechanic, Gillespie receives engines from squadrons that are due for routine inspections and disassembles them down into modules. He further disassembles those modules down and removes and replaces any failed or worn components. Finally, after performing the required inspection, he rebuilds the engine and sends it to an engine test cell to check the performance of the engine and verify that it is within specifications before it is issued back out to the fleet. G
illespie is currently attached to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 powerline division for their six-month combat deployment aboard the USS Enterprise to assist in the repair and troubleshooting of engine discrepancies. His assistance and knowledge helped save the Navy more than $500,000 in shipping and repair costs. The turnaround time to remove and replace an engine had been greatly reduced and it keeps the squadron’s aircraft in an operational status in support of daily flight operations. In return, Gillespie is gaining experience and learning what it takes to be a organizational-level Marine.
The difference between the two levels is that O-level maintenance focuses on inspection, operation and servicing the aircraft, whereas I-level maintenance repairs, tests, inspects and modifies the components it is made of.
“Since being a part of the work center Gillespie has accepted the challenge of learning a different military occupational specialty and how we function,” said Gunnery Sgt. Keith Evans, VMFA-251 powerline division chief. “Gillespie’s experience and in-depth knowledge of the F/A-18 Hornet’s power plant system helps us trouble shoot and identify engine discrepancies.”
This deployment has been a success for Gillespie as he has been able to get experience with the powerline shop and learn how to do more than just focus on the engine, but instead work on the entire aircraft.
“Since day one they’ve put me up on the flight deck with them, allowing me to get as much experience during their day-to-day maintenance routine as possible,” Gillespie said. “They have been great teachers and very patient with me and allow me to get into a lot of the daily maintenance.”
Gillespie believes that there is no task that a noncommissioned officer is too good to do. He makes himself available to the Marines while keeping a positive attitude and leading by example.
“He is up on the flight deck every night for long periods of time while maintaining an extremely positive attitude which can be contagious and inspiring at times,” said Cpl. Ryan Jenkins, a VMFA-251 powerline technician. “No matter what the task is, big or small, he is willing to go up there and give it a shot and he achieves great results. He doesn’t let the monotony, confusion or the hectic schedules faze him or let him get frustrated.”
Before the deployment he had no clue what to expect or how much the O-Level Marines were responsible for. All he knew was how to be an I-level Marine.
“I had no idea before I joined their division how much they did,” Gillespie explained. “This deployment has made me aware of the O-Level Marines’ job and how much they rely on us to provide pristine and highly reliable engines. I plan to take the knowledge that I’ve gained back with me and share my experience with my fellow Marines.”
Gillespie’s ability to stay motivated relies heavily on the small things he looks forward to such as his family back home, the people on the ground who he is supporting and knowing that he is making an incredible difference as he fights in theater and helps contribute with keeping the battle from reaching U.S. soil.
“He gives a 100 percent effort on everything he has been tasked with,” Evans said. “He is professional and shows a lot of pride in all that he does. He has fit in well with our shop as well as the entire maintenance department.”