ABOARD USS BATAAN -- The aviation ordnance Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit's Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-264 (Reinforced), are rarely seen or heard around Bataan, but they wield some of the unit's most decisive combat tools.
The bombs, bullets, missiles, rockets, flares, and anything else that shoots or drops from all the aircraft in the Marine Corps inventory are the domain of the military occupational specialties (MOS) 6531 and 6541, who are responsible for the ordnance loaded on all of the squadron's aircraft, according to Staff Sgt. Mike A. Hunt, a member of HMM-264 (Rein)'s helicopter unit.
"We are the backbone of any squadron," said Hunt. "When the time comes to raise some hell, we are the golden children of the squadron."
The 26th MEU contains two separate, distinct types of aviation ordnance Marines, organizational and intermediate.
The 24 organizational Marines deal directly with the aircraft and do most of their work on the flight deck or hangar deck of the ship. This work includes loading ordnance aboard the airframes, and maintaining the weapons systems inside and outside of the aircraft.
The six intermediate Marines reside deep in the bowels of the ship, and are responsible for working on the support equipment for the armament systems, as well as doing special inspections on weapons systems, which includes racks and guns. When the Marines are not aboard ship, they are also responsible for assembly, issue, and storage of the ordnance.
Aviation ordnance Marines are fiercely proud of their specialties, and are the only occupational field that celebrates the birthday of its founding, April 25, 1922, according to Hunt.
The field is unique in that aviation ordnance Marines can work on any aircraft in the Marine Corps, regardless of whether it is fixed-wing or rotary-wing.
By comparison, a CH-46E Sea Knight flight crew could transition to working in a UH-1N Huey squadron without extensive training.
The ordnance Marines are constantly busy aboard ship doing tasks ranging from routine maintenance to loading ordnance when the aircraft go on alert status, Hunt said.
Working aboard ship can be more difficult for the Marines than working ashore at their home air station, said Sgt. Mark C. Penns, Ordnance Quality Assurance representative for HMM-264 (Rein). This is largely due to limitations on the specialized equipment that can be brought aboard ship because of space constraints, he said.
"It takes about 15 to 20 minutes from start to finish to load a bomb aboard ship," he said. "On a base, it takes five to ten minutes."
The ordnance Marines continue to support the operations of the 26th MEU while it takes part in Exercise Eastern Maverick 2007, a bilateral training exercise with the armed forces of Qatar.
In addition, the Marines and Sailors of the 26th MEU, which consists of the Aviation Combat Element, HMM-264 (Rein.), the Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team 2/2, and the Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 26, will continue to conduct maritime security operations in the central Arabian Gulf.
Coalition forces conduct maritime security operations under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.
For more on the 26th MEU, including news, videos and contact information, please visit www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.