ABOARD USS IWO JIMA -- As the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit continues workups aboard the three ships of Amphibious Squadron 6 in preparation for deployment next year, the integration of the Navy and Marine Corps team is a necessity to the success and accomplishment of the mission of the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group.
One area where this successful integration is evident is the Navy's Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department, where, during the current pre-deployment exercises, more than 60 MEU aviation technicians work daily with their Navy counterparts performing intermediate-level maintenance for all the aircraft of the ready group.
In Navy and Marine Corps aviation, aircraft maintenance is performed primarily at two levels, the organizational and intermediate. Technicians at the organizational level maintain and repair the aircraft as a whole. Once they find a faulty engine or other component on the aircraft, they remove it and send it to the intermediate level maintenance department. Here, technicians repair the faulty part and return it back to the inventory for use on another aircraft.
During the Amphibious Ready Group Exercise, Marines attached to AIMD were found on the hanger deck of the USS Iwo Jima with their Navy counterparts conducting routine maintenance on an engine from a Navy HH-46D "Sea Knight."
This coordinated effort allowed the technicians of AIMD to do integrated repairs on practically any aircraft component that needs maintenance, explained Petty Officer 1st class Rhoel Empalmado, the leading petty officer for AIMD.
In the case of the Navy Sea Knight, the engine had an oil leak and was declared not fit to fly, explained Staff Sgt. Eric Love, the AIMD staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. Organizational level technicians pulled the engine and the AIMD personnel immediately went to work preparing a new engine for installation. Later, they inspected and repaired the leaking engine.
It took more than five hours of coordinated effort for the Marines and Sailors to prepare the new engine for installation into the Sea Knight. "Changing engines is a common occurrence on deployment," said Love,
"but we give the Navy some of our assets, just like they give us some of theirs, to get the job done."
Love's Marines offer a wide array of talents and experience to accomplish these types of challenging maintenance missions.
"Some of these guys have never done an engine transfer," said Cpl. Reginald Kossie, an engine mechanic with AIMD. Kossie, who has performed more than 60 such transfers on Navy and Marine aircraft in his four year Marine Corps career, shares his experience with the younger troops, improving everyone's proficiency.
"This is cool - giving Marines and Sailors a chance to work together," said Cpl. Julio Rivera, an engine mechanic for AIMD. "It gives (Marines) a better perspective on what they might be doing during our deployment."
To learn more about the Marines and Sailors of HMM-264 (Reinforced), the 26th MEU or Amphibious Squadron-6, visit them on the web at www.26meu.usmc.mil.