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Powerline Marines ensure safe path

By Lance Cpl. Rubin J. Tan | | September 9, 2011

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Deep in the desert of California, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 powerline Marines conduct inspections needed to start their squadron’s training evolution at Camp Wilson Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., this month.

The Checkerboards are supporting ground units by providing them with close-air support during the Mojave Viper training exercise.

Powerline Marines sat in the aircraft hangar reading magazines and eagerly awaiting the arrival of the aircraft Sept. 1.

The familiar sound of an approaching Hornet filled the hanger, causing the Marines to cheer and reach for their cranials. Shortly after, the hangar seemed like a disturbed ant pile as Marines rushed onto the flightline with vehicles, tools and tanks filled to support the incoming aircraft.

Powerline Marines began to assume control over the flight line as they would walk backwards rising, lowering, crossing and gesturing with their arms to direct the landing aircraft into their designated areas.

“When you are out on the flightline you always have to be aware of your surroundings, because it is up to you to direct the pilot in a safe route away from other Marines and aircraft on the flight line,” said Sgt. Jacob Harold, of Loveland, Colo., a VMFA-312 powerline work center supervisor.

After the Hornets were parked, blocks were placed in front and behind the tires while a ground wire was connected to the aircraft in order to begin the inspection process.

The Marines inspect the aircraft opening and check the various parts of the Hornet to ensure no defects or damage such as corrosion are found. During the inspection process, other powerline Marines change the oil and test fuel in the aircraft.

“We are responsible for inspecting and maintaining aircraft, traffic control on the flight line, tire changes and most engine related issues,” said Lance Cpl. Jurrell Brown of Millersville, Md., a VMFA-312 powerline plane captain.

Working in the harsh, desert environment of Twentynine Palms can lead the Marines on the flightline to battle the factors of heat, dehydration and fatigue while they help to support units on the ground.

“This environment is able to put us into the mindset of being in Afghanistan because we get to experience both ground side and being away from home unlike on the Air Station,” said Brown.

While supporting Mojave Viper, Marines will also face issues with airframe parts due to the secluded location of Camp Wilson.

“The training teaches them to ensure every aircraft is ready to go out in a timely manner,” said Gunnery Sgt. James Gill, the VMFA-312 powerline division chief.

The experience gives Marines the opportunity to get a mental and physical feel for what Afghanistan may be like.

“It is important for us to support Mojave Viper because it fosters the importance of a tactical [Marine Air Ground Task Force] which gives ground units the confidence to utilize our capabilities,” said Harold.
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