Maintaining the spear, Part II: Mechanics, crew chiefs meet high expectations

13 Sep 2000 | Cpl. Derek A. Shoemake 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Editor's Note: Maintaining the spear is a two-part series focusing on the various preventive maintenance conducted by members of the 26th MEU(SOC) in order to keep their vehicles, equipment and aircraft up and running.If CH-46E Sea Knights and AH-1W Super Cobras could talk, they'd probably say thank you after their stay here."I think the [helicopters] are enjoying it," laughed LCpl. Kevin Levasseur, crew chief with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 264. "The other day I walked by one and it gave me a high five."Levasseur is talking about how the Marines of HMM-264 turned a temporary set back into a major advantage when they landed on the airfield here Aug 29. Due to logistical problems, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable)'s aircraft were unable to fly until Sept. 7."It gave us an awesome chance to clean them up," said Cpl. Christopher Piggot, CH-46E mechanic and Parkersburg, W.V. native. "With all the salt water in the air and around us corrosion gets awful on the ship."According to Levasseur, a Lowell, Mass. native, being away from the ship also offered other maintenance advantages."On ship it's very difficult to get fresh water, especially enough to wash a helicopter," he said. "Here they had indoor wash racks and we were able to spray the birds down from top to bottom."In addition to the cleaning, the Marines performed preventive maintenance on all the helicopters. "We busted all the rust," said Sgt. Jason Warren, CH-46E Mechanic and Winter Haven Fla. native. "Then we went and greased anything that may have needed greasing."The Marines also performed functionality checks on all the internal equipment.Some of the aircraft required more extensive work; in one helicopter they removed and rebuilt an engine. Warren said this more extensive maintenance allowed the more junior crew chiefs, who have never served as mechanics, to learn about what the other side did."A lot of times newer crew chiefs don't really have a lot of time to get in here and learn all about the aircraft and figure out how to take stuff apart," said Warren. "This has given them a chance.""I've learned a lot more about the systems, especially some specific things about the engine," said Levasseur.According to Maj. Brian Fagan, CH-46E pilot, the crew chiefs' and mechanics' hard work did not go unnoticed."I've been in a lot of squadrons," said the St. Louis, Mo. native. "HMM-264 has one of the best maintenance sections I've ever seen."I trust all these guys with my life on a daily basis. I know they do great work and you can see it in the product they put out. I have never once had a doubt in my mind here that these aircraft were ready to go."You're talking about a 35-year old aircraft and they make it look better than the day it came off of the assembly line," said Fagan.The maintenance job was noticed all the way at the top."You guys did a great job," said LtCol. Dan McCarron, Commanding Officer of HMM-264, to the Marines during a visit to Aviano. "We have a lot of things ahead of us, and I know these aircraft will be ready."