USS KEARSARGE, At Sea --
The fight against corrosion on aircraft is a never ending battle than cannot be disregarded. The degradation of aircraft and its parts could potentially cause aircraft to become inoperable, and at the extreme, pose a threat to the Marines and sailors aboard them.
“We treat all the corrosion that occurs on aircraft,” said Cpl. Nicolas M. Belmer, a corrosion control specialist collateral duty inspector assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Staten Island, N.Y., native. “If paint chips or corrodes off the blades or skin of the aircraft it can continue to corrode the actual aircraft causing even more damage. We reapply paint so it’s the paint corroding and not the actual blades or aircraft.”
Belmer said corrosion is caused by any kind of moisture, especially water from humidity or salt water which is inescapable, especially while deployed in hot climates and on the open waters. He mentioned salt water can cause the corrosion to happen exponentially faster.
To combat the risk of corrosion, Marine airframe mechanics can go through an advanced schooling to learn how to properly treat and prevent corrosion.
“We go through Aircraft Paint and Touch-Up school in [Marine Corps Air Station] Cherry Point, [N.C.],” said Belmer. “It is a two week course where they teach you how to sand, paint and prep the aircraft to touch it up with paint.”
The Marines of corrosion control have passed down a skillset allowing them to paint more detailed images on aircraft using a projector, tape and paint.
“We use a projector to project the image of the design and then we tape the area and trace it,” said Staff Sgt. Jonathon Reiser, corrosion control staff noncommissioned officer in charge with VMM-266 from Accokeek, Md. “Next, we break it down by colors, cut the color out, paint it, and let it dry: then we tape it back over. We slowly pick away at the colors by taping and painting repeatedly until we finish the design. It is kind of a long and drawn out tedious process, but the results are always satisfactory.”
At the start of the 26th MEU’s 2013 deployment the Marines were tasked with incorporating the ground and logistic elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force onto their birds by painting the respective different logos onto aircraft assigned to the Aviation Combat Element.
“My Marines have actually done two tails on two of the aircraft,” said Reiser. “We have done the Combat Logistics Battalion 26 and Battalion Landing Team 3/2 logo on the tails of Ospreys.”
Most recently, Belmer and Reiser were asked to paint a 26th MEU logo that incorporated a rooster on a set of double wide doors on the flight deck of the USS Kearsarge. Sacrificing time to sleep, the two Marines started the project earlier than expected and finished what could have taken a week by focusing on the project and spending nearly 13 hours to complete it. This further proves the tight bond of the Blue/Green team of the 26th MEU and the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group.