ROBERTS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, LIBERIA -- Nearly 15 Marines of MEU Service Support Group-26, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), arrived here early Thursday to establish an airfield control group to offload the first U.S. Air Force C-130 airplane to arrive in Liberia and to be prepared to handle flights from throughout the region.
The mission for these Marines is to account for all personnel and equipment coming off and going on all U.S. aircraft and assist with their movement, explained Staff Sgt. Steven Taylor, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Landing Support Detachment, MSSG-26.
Emerging from the USAF C-130 were more than a dozen Marine, Navy and Army personnel and aircraft parts destined for the USS Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group. Once their names were placed on the helicopter's manifest, the U.S. service members were rapidly whisked away in two CH-46E "Sea Knight" helicopters.
Once the C-130 was empty, the MSSG Marines used a forklift brought to the airfield earlier in the day and a Liberian forklift from the airport here to load a platoon of U.S. Navy SEALS' gear and equipment on the aircraft before the Sailors boarded the aircraft en route to Rota, Spain.
"We didn't think that our forklift could handle all the equipment that the SEALS needed to put on the aircraft at one time," said Sgt. Jody Putney, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the detachment. "We asked the airport if they had a forklift and crew we could borrow for the job. The Liberians were very helpful and got the job done quicker than we could have," Putney said.
Throughout the Marines' time at the airfield there, the Liberian airport personnel were very supportive of the Marines and ECOMIL peacekeepers as they worked together to ensure a secure environment for the arrival of U.N. and other aircraft. Through this secure airport, food, personnel and supplies essential to help end the suffering in Liberia flowed freely.
With the USAF C-130 unloaded and on its way to Spain, the MSSG Marines linked up with Lima Battery, the Joint Task Force-Liberia's shore-based quick reaction force (QRF), to make some minor improvements to the small compound that these Marines have called home for more than a week.
Using the forklift, large piles of scrap metal that had been lining the walls of the compound were consolidated and moved out of the way to allow space for additional vehicles or equipment to be brought in, if needed.
As the JTF Commander relocated the Marines and Sailors of Lima Battery back to sea on Sunday to serve as a sea-based QRF, a small detachment of MSSG Marines remained behind at Roberts International Airport to facilitate the offloading and on loading of future U.S. flights.
To learn more about these Marines and their operations in Liberia, visit them on the web at www.26meu.usmc.mil.