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Fighter jets are a common sight at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, soaring and roaring past overhead. Pilots train relentlessly day and night, practicing air to air combat, air to ground combat, studying weapons and tactics, and dropping ordnance.

Photo by Cpl. Sarah Cherry

Ordnance: ‘We put fight in fighter jet’

22 May 2014 | Cpl. Sarah Cherry

Fighter jets are a common sight at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort. Pilots train relentlessly day and night, practicing air-to-air combat, air-to-ground combat and studying weapons and tactics.

Most don’t see the Marines behind the scenes that equip the jets with the ordnance pilots need for their training.

“The ordnance community is what strikes fear into the heart of our enemies,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Buschbacher, an aviation ordnance technician with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533. “We’re a tight-knit community. We work hard, and we play just as hard.”

Ordnance sections with each aviation squadron are responsible for ordnance systems and equipment on the aircraft, and maintenance of those systems. They also add and remove ordnance to and from the aircraft.

The hard work put in by Marines with VMFA(AW)-533s ordnance section does not go unnoticed. They support their squadron locally, during training across the country, and deployments outside the country.

Recently, the squadron provided support for Weapons and Tactics Instructor course aboard Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif.

“They were out in ninety degree weather for about four and a half weeks,” said Sgt. Maj. Derrick Mays, sergeant major for VMFA(AW)-533. “There was not one heat case or any complaining about the working environment, even though there were miserable times throughout those four weeks. Those Marines showed perseverance.”

Ordnance is a high risk, unforgiving job field. A small mistake could mean the difference between life or death in some situations. However, it is a critical capability.

“Without our specialty, there would be no ordnance during detachments,” said Cpl. Nicholas Stucker, an aviation ordnance technician with Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533. “The training for those pilots and our shop is vital to combat operations.”

Stucker participated in the recent support of WTI, and previously deployed with the squadron to the Western Pacific where he participated in exercises in Guam and the Philippines.

“In Guam and the Philippines, we were providing close air support for infantry units on the ground,” said Stucker. “If
bombs aren’t properly configured or the fins are installed wrong, the bomb could fall short and do more harm than good. We need to be used to a high tempo of operations and know exactly what we’re doing.”

Ordnance technicians skirt danger while loading different forms of ordnance. The characteristic that stands out amongst their capabilities is the close camaraderie and sense of community among all service members in the ordnance community.

Buschbacher worked with AV-8B Harriers before coming to Beaufort and deployed with that platform three times since 2004, but said the sense of community helped the transition to Beaufort and F-18s.

“They welcomed me in with open arms, and I felt like part of the team from day one.”