MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII --
In the world of Marine Corps aviation, pilots tend to be superstars of the show, flying jets and dropping bombs, but behind the scenes are the Marines on the ground who make it all possible.
Maintenance Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 work day and night, repairing and preparing F/A-18C Hornets for their scheduled flights during Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2014 aboard Marine Corps Base Hawaii.
Rim of the Pacific is a multinational maritime exercise that provides a unique training opportunity which helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of the sea lanes and security of the world’s oceans.
According to Marine 1st Lt. Jeffrey Kennedy, the assistant aviation maintenance officer with VMFA-122, three-fourths of the Marines with VMFA-122 in Hawaii are involved in aviation maintenance. Those Marines inhabit eight shops: maintenance control, quality assurance, flight equipment, ordnance, powerline, maintenance administration, seat shop and airframes.
“Each shop plays an important role in getting the jets up in the air,” said Kennedy. “Without every one of them doing their job, the pilots can’t fly.”
The squadron’s F/A-18C Hornets, approximately three decades old, require roughly 15 hours of maintenance for every hour they are in the air, said Kennedy.
“The maintenance time fluctuates, but 15 hours is a relatively low number,” said Kennedy. “The older the jet, the more maintenance that has to be done and the more complicated it becomes.”
Routine maintenance is the Marines’ day-to-day job and that is exactly how they look at it, explained Kennedy.
“An error made by someone in aviation maintenance could be disastrous,” said Kennedy. “Any error could end in loss of aircraft or loss of life.”
According to Marine Sgt. Michael Lincourt, a safety equipment mechanic with VMFA-122, the slightest error could have dire consequences, so maintainers have to stay focused on the job at hand.
“By the book maintenance is what we live by,” said Lincourt, who works in the seat shop. “Thinking about what could go wrong while working on an aircraft can make a Marine nervous and that is when errors are more likely to be made.”
Kennedy said there is a certain amount of trust pilots put into the Marines maintaining their jets. Pilots have to trust that the Marine Corps trained the most qualified Marines who get their jobs done quickly and safely.
“As a pilot, you put your life in the hands of the maintainers and without them, you aren’t flying,” said Marine Capt. Cody P. Buras, an F/A-18C Hornet pilot with VMFA-122. “These Marines work so hard, do a great job, and give me an amazing and trustworthy aircraft to fly.”