MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- MALS MPAs ensure squadrons are conducting maintenance in accordance with all applicable orders and directives. They are critical to the operational readiness of every Marine Corps aviation squadron as they help identify incorrect or inefficient maintenance practices, which could potentially hinder a squadron’s ability to complete future missions.
Concurrently with the inspection, VMFA-232 is conducting scheduled phase maintenance on two of its aircraft. When squadrons execute phase maintenance, mechanics are allowed to perform in-depth maintenance to enhance the welfare of the aircraft.
“We have a couple aircraft that are down for phase,” said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Mark Maldonado-Castro, an aviation safety mechanic with VMFA-232. “It’s primarily a huge inspection cycle where we check the integrity of the parts.”
When squadrons go through MPAs, mechanics are allowed to perform in-depth maintenance to enhance the welfare of the aircraft.
“You get to work on small gripes,” said Maldonado. “They’re not down on discrepancies, but it will help the aircraft fly better and help the pilots achieve their mission. It gives you an extra opportunity to work on them.”
According to Maldonado, maintaining aircraft operations helps Marines stay true to the ‘always ready’ mentality.
“Having the aircraft ready at any moments time, like Marines, who are ready at any second,” said Maldonado. “It’s what we’re here for.”
In order to prepare for the MPA, VMFA-232 executed a detailed preparation plan developed by their quality assurance department. The plan lasted 9 weeks and included detailed audits on all the Naval Aviation Maintenance Programs, multiple drills and practical evolutions the Marines could be expected to execute during the MPA.
“The most difficult part was probably the preparation,” said Moore. “Making sure tools are properly etched and aren’t corroded. Foreign object debris is definitely a big one.”
During the MPA, the squadron was inspected on 13 maintenance programs in accordance with the Naval Aviation Maintenance Programs. Programs are graded with “on-track”, “needs more attention” or “off-track.”
Although the inspections focus on the proper maintenance of the squadron, the definitive objective of the evaluation is to ensure mission accomplishment and safety of operations around the Indo-Asia Pacific region.
“We as a squadron seem to be doing quite well,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Nicholas Moore, a powerline mechanic with VMFA-232. “We need to be held accountable to make sure we are doing things by the book. When we pass, it gives our pilots more confidence in the maintenance department.”