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“Nightmares” from VMA-513 go the ‘Extra Mile’ in support of Exercise Balikatan 2008

1 Mar 2008 | Lance Cpl. Jason Spinella

The Marines and Sailors of Marine Attack Squadron 513 (VMA 513), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit proved that hard work and dedication can make all the difference when it comes to mission accomplishment.

 Approximately 126 Marines and Sailors from VMA 513 worked around the clock, Feb. 18 to March 3, in support of Exercise Balikatan 2008 (BK ’08), a bilateral training exercise conducted annually in order to sustain and strengthen the positive relationship between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States. The goal of VMA 513 was simple, to provide fixed-wing aviation support during BK ’08.

 “Our objective is to support the training of the U.S. and Philippine ground combat forces with air support,” said Major Bret Ritterby, the Operations Officer for the Yuma, Ariz. based VMA and a Redding, Calif. native. “We provide offensive air support such as armed reconnaissance and close air support for the GCE’s.”

 Behind the scenes and aside from the pilots, the members of VMA 513 typically provide quality maintenance on the AV-8B Harrier Jets. Several shops dedicated to certain elements of maintenance include seat (ejection seat sustainment), flight equipment maintenance, avionics, powerline (engine maintenance), ordnance division, corrosion control and airframes.

 With the squadron being an important part of the MEU’s Marine Air Ground Task Force, being prepared to carry out a mission on a moments notice is key to the MEU’s success.

 “These devil dogs work around the clock,” said the VMA 513 Sergeant Major Russell Brown, a North Augusta, S.C. native. “Without these Marines and their hard work, these jets would not fly, and the mission would not be accomplished.”

 With mission accomplishment a top priority, the work must be thorough and precise with no room for errors.

 “Being really flexible with your work schedule, and being ready for any problem at any time is very important,” said Sgt. Jacob Black, a powerline mechanic with VMA 513.

 “Constant inspections are conducted prior to every flight to prevent loss of life and aircraft.”

 For Black, a Modesto, Calif. native, anything can happen at any time and every shop has a duty and purpose when it comes to making sure the aircraft are suitable for flight.

 “You must plan ahead and make sure you have the tools and personnel in case a problem may occur,” explained Black.

 “Every shop plays a huge role in aircraft sustainment, and without one shop, the other shop’s work is useless.”

 Marine ground vehicles are known to be very resilient and tough, while Marine aircraft are powerful and sleek. These characteristics demand special attention.

 According to Sgt. Benjamin Kastning, an avionics technician with VMA 513, the aircraft are very sensitive, and similar to the 31st MEU in that if one element does not work properly, the entire element is not functioning at its greatest potential.

 “Avionics in a jet are very sensitive and are very easy to go down,” added Kastning, a native of Darien, Wis. “If there is any problem within the squadron from ordnance to landing gear, avionics plays a huge role.”

 According to Kastning, avionics involves work with the sensitive aspects of the jet such as computers and wiring.

 “Sometimes it is changing out computers and rewiring entire wiring systems to simple tasks like changing light bulbs in the cock pit,” said Kastning.

 As part of the Aviation Combat Element of the 31st MEU, the Marines and Sailors of VMA 513 went the extra mile to support BK ’08. Hard work and unwavering professionalism enabled the “Nightmares” to support every mission without failure and ensured their aircraft and personnel remained sharp and ready for any contingency in the Asia-Pacific region.

31st Marine Expeditionary Unit