Getting Warriors to the fight … Embarkation ensures service members hit the ground running

7 Sep 2007 | Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Young

When most Marines were just getting back from their 96 hour liberty period, one group had been hard at work getting Fightertown’s Marines to the fight.

Some may say the perfect example of putting plans into action is the embarkation Marines who are responsible for moving all units within Marine Aircraft Group 31 in and out of Fightertown.

“Our main mission is to deploy units,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sean Melanphy, the embarkation officer-in-charge. “If any unit in MAG-31 is moving, embark is there planning and executing their deployment and redeployment.”

From January to February this year, embarkation Marines moved nearly 5,000 Marines and 13,000 pounds of cargo, Melanphy said.

Embarkation Marines begin the process of moving units 90 days before their scheduled deployment.

“We gather estimates of all the weights and numbers of the cargo, passengers and packs that will need to be transported,” said Staff Sgt. Jorge Jerez, the MAG-31 embarkation staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge.

Sixty days before the scheduled movement, accurate numbers of personnel and cargo weight are needed. Once the information is gathered, embark Marines begin the paperwork process to request the appropriate transportation. All requests have to be completed 38 days prior to the scheduled movement to ensure the requests are made in a timely manner, Jerez said.

“The type of plane we request depends on how much cargo is being moved,” Jerez said. “We try to save money, so it is important to find the right size plane for each job. A plane larger than what we need is a waste of money.”

Since embark usually uses Air Force planes, all cargo has to have a joint inspection, 24-hours prior to loading it. If the cargo does not meet the Air Force’s standards for any reason, they can refuse to carry the load and call the aircraft off.

“We stress to all units to properly prepare their cargo for this reason,” Jerez said.

When shipping day comes, embark Marines are more than prepared. The planes are loaded as soon as they arrive. Three hours before departure, all personnel traveling must be manifested and weighed with their packs by embark Marines before boarding the plane. Gear, personnel and cargo, once loaded and secured, take off safely to their destination.

Although this process is used for every squadron, unforeseen situations can arise at any moment.

“Situations are always changing, so we stay in constant communication with each other,” said Cpl. Daniel Mendoza, a MAG-31 embarkation NCO. “If a plane breaks down, we have to do whatever it takes to get the unit to its destination.”

“We have to be efficient,” Melanphy said. “All eyes are on us if something goes wrong and dropping the ball affects the entire unit.”

Even if everything goes right, the fast-paced operational tempo here at MAG- 31 keeps embark Marines moving, Melanphy said.

“If a squadron isn’t doing workups, they’re either on a deployment or coming back from a deployment, and that keeps us busy,” Melanphy said. “We have five major movements in September alone.”

In addition to moving units, the MAG-31 embark Marines are the Aerial Port of Embarkation for Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

“All cargo that lands here is logged and processed by us,” Melanphy said.

There is little rest when it comes time to get the Air Station’s Marines to the fight. If a squadron is leaving Fightertown safe and on time, then the embarkation Marine’s hard work and dedication for the last 90 days has paid off.