ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- More than a week after touching down in Guam, Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 still hasn’t rolled to a halt. Aircraft maintenance crew members with the squadron have been immersed in 24-hour flight operations -- and sweat induced by subtropical temperatures -- during Exercise Valiant Shield 16, an ongoing field-training exercise here.
During this U.S.-only, biennial exercise, F/A-18D Hornets are flying an array of missions that emphasize joint integration, interoperability and expeditionary readiness.
The high operational tempo of VS 16 makes the aircraft maintainers’ mission extremely important. Before each flight, a variety of specially trained Marines conduct comprehensive inspections to ensure the flights are safe and smooth:
- Airframes mechanics inspect the airframe itself, flight controls, landing gear systems and the hydraulic systems.
- Communication navigation technicians ensure pilots have properly functioning radios and radar systems.
- Ordnance technicians maintain and repair the Hornet’s armament systems.
- Powerline mechanics control traffic on the flight line and inspect the aircraft’s fuel and propulsion systems.
“Safety is always a concern in this environment and, as such, extra time is factored into planning for each mission, whether its maintenance or operations,” said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Christopher Callen, the maintenance control chief for VMFA(AW)-242.
Working closely with the aircraft maintenance Marines are the actual aircrew who execute missions, such as air combat training, defensive counter-air operations and live fire exercises with other U.S. forces.
“I like working with the pilots,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Peters, a powerline mechanic with VMFA(AW)-242. “It makes me feel important because their lives are in my hand when we are launching them out.”
Peters explained that junior enlisted Marines in most Marine Corps communities rarely find themselves having to direct officers.
Marine Corps Capt. Adam Bueltel, a F/A-18D Hornet pilot for VMFA(AW)-242, said teamwork between the aircrew and maintainers is crucial.
“It requires a high level of readiness and qualifications from all of the shops, which VMFA(AW)-242 is really good about,” said Bueltel. “When we go on large exercises like Valiant Shield, it’s our opportunity to test our detachment interoperability and see how those building blocks from Iwakuni come together.”
Marines of VMFA(AW)-242 are continuing to work through the exercise with other U.S. forces, building interoperability within the squadron and facilitating clear lines of communication to enhance U.S. joint-operations.