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Powerline Marines ensure safe path

By Lance Cpl. Rubin J. Tan | | September 17, 2011

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Aboard Camp Wilson, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., temperatures reached a high of 105 degrees Sept. 4, as Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 supported ground units participating in Mojave Viper.

Despite the heat, various aircraft maintenance shops continued to work on the flightline, supplying pilots with reliable equipment for their F/A-18 Hornets.

Weapon loading vehicles, known as SATS loaders, are driven back and forth by ordnance Marines constantly to load and unload ordnance to ensure pilots are able to practice accuracy while deploying bombs.

As one SATS loader becomes immobile due to engine problems, the shop is challenged to work harder with only two loaders available and over three hornets needing ordnance loaded.

This week, ordnance Marines will support Mojave Viper by loading guided bomb units, M61 Vulcan cannons, joint direct attack munitions, fire bombs and Mark 83 and Mk 82 bombs, which they are not accustomed to.

“Supplying ordnance here gives the Marines a chance to load ordnance not normally used in Beaufort,” said Master Sgt. Wayne Moore, VMFA-312 ordnance division chief, and a native of Louisville, Ohio.

As well as combating unfamiliarity with a specific weapons system, Marines are also battling the desert heat with an increased workload.

“We just have to deal with harsh living conditions,” said Cpl. Jason Rodriguez, a VMFA-312 ordnance technician.

Working and living in such an unforgiving climate creates additional stress especially for those away from their children and spouses, said Rodriguez, an El Paso, Texas native.

Regardless, ordnance Marines continue to ensure aircraft are equipped with the correct weapon systems allowing full functionality and availability of ordnance.

“Being able to work together with the other Marines in my shop definitely builds morale and camaraderie,” said Cpl. Devon Palafax, a VMFA-312 ordnance technician.

Without mutual suffering, the Marines might not meld together and function as such a tight knit unit, said Palafax, a Los Angeles native. He believes that as a result of the remote locations, arid climate and constraints work, the Marines will build a stronger unit cohesion.

Ordnance Marines who recently joined the squadron also have the chance to learn more about the Marines in their shop as they gain experience by working together and through hands on experience with loading different types of weapons on the aircraft.

“It feels great to finally use what I learned in real situations and to work together to get the mission accomplished in this fast paced environment,” said Pfc. Mark Alverez, a VMFA-312 ordnance technician and a native of Miami, Fla.

The environment of Twentynine Palms provides the Checkerboards a chance to feel the effects and the same technical issues, harsh environments and learning curves they would face in Afghanistan.

The field training also provides ordnance Marines more hands on interaction with units they would only interact with in the heat of battle.
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