Checkerboards touch down

26 Nov 2008 | Cpl. Jenn Eagelman

More than 100 members of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 visited Naval Station Norfolk, Va. to board the USS Eisenhower for a pre–deployment work-up in the northern Atlantic Ocean Nov. 17-22.
The purpose of the work-ups is to ensure the squadron can perform on the carrier and meet the requirements of an operational Carrier Aircraft Group.
“Work-ups help ensure that VMFA-312 meets CAG-3’s requirements and is able to perform operational missions when the carrier is deployed,” said 1st Lt. Matthew Allen, the Checkerboard’s assistant aircraft maintenance officer.
The Checkerboards have been performing Field Carrier Landing Practices aboard the Air Station in the previous months in preparation for work-ups and deploying aboard the carrier, but nothing comes close to actually landing and taking off of a ship, Allen said.
These carrier based deployments give pilots and maintenance Marines the chance to get the hands-on experience they need to keep up with the fast pace of carrier flight operations, according to Allen. They are able to be on the flight deck and see the high tempo flight operations firsthand, to deal with the communication barriers and troubleshoot in real-world conditions.
“When you are doing flight operations on the boat, you are dealing with aircraft moving in tight spots and you are five feet from them; you always have your head on a swivel keeping awareness of your surroundings so you don’t get hurt,” said Sgt Nathan Harris, a plane captain with VMFA - 312.  “It’s harder to communicate and you are doing maintenance on the jets in tougher conditions, smaller workspaces and are fully exposed to the elements. The timeline for getting aircraft ready, prepared and in line to launch is much more stressful.”
There is a steady deployment schedule to meet the core requirements of being a CAG Squadron. To better prepare the Checkerboards for their upcoming carrier based deployment, they will partake in deployments to Key West, Fla., Fallon, Nev., and make multiple visits to the carrier to practice launching and landing in a very tight and highly dangerous environment.