Marines refuel Harriers for rapid takeoffs, landings at Ie Shima
IE SHIMA, Okinawa, Japan -- As AV-8B Harriers rapidly take off and land, Marines on the ground provide the critical support to keep them in the air, ensuring mission accomplishment no matter the environment.
Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, conducted bulk refueling training with AV-8B Harrier aircraft Jan. 16 at Ie Shima training facility.
“The Marines performed well during the training prior to the start of flight operations,” said Capt. Aleah A. Larson, the aviation operations company commander with MWSS-172. “We had a lot of new Marines arrive over the past few months, and the training was a good opportunity for the experienced Marines to teach the junior and newer Marines more about their (military occupational specialties).”
Training at Ie Shima allows the squadron to simulate the type of environments it will encounter while supporting flight operations in the Asia-Pacific region.
“It is imperative that we train with the units we are going to support to build a good working relationship and rehearse and develop our procedures,” said Larson.
The squadron performed its refueling training on Harriers with the “Flying Nightmares” of Marine Attack Squadron 513, which currently has aircraft attached to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 262, the aviation combat element of the 31st MEU.
“The landing strip on Ie Shima is simulating the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, (to help train) the pilots, so they can qualify to land on carriers while deployed to other regions or aboard naval vessels,” said Sgt. John Paul A. Runge, a bulk fuel specialist and fuel team leader with MWSS-172.
Prior to refueling the jets, MWSS-172 Marines filter and inspect the aviation fuel to ensure the aircraft are not receiving contaminated or diluted fuel.
A water detector is used at every refueling point, according to Runge.
“We want to go above and beyond with the quality of fuel we are providing because the aircraft we are working with are valuable assets,” said Runge.
On top of controlling and adjusting the fuel’s potency, the Marines are sent out on the landing strip to look for foreign objects and debris.
“Essentially, we have to clear the landing strip for any and all objects that can potentially produce static or can get caught in the jets’ engines,” said Runge. The training evolution as a whole is overseen by pilots who are qualified to control landings.
“It is important for us to be able to control the aircraft landing, so we can make sure the Harriers land safely and track trends in the landing and refueling process,” said Maj. Andrew P. Diviney, a pilot and landing signal officer with VMA-513. “Our pilots only have a 14-day window to perform the landing training or else they will have to perform the entire syllabus again.”
Performing their primary tasks while integrating tasks from different elements of the training proves the Marines’ ability to be versatile in any aircraft-landing environment.
“We make the Marine aircraft wing expeditionary,” said Larson. “Our Marines and equipment are able to be deployed to austere locations and operate with minimal additional support.”
The Marines and their capabilities are organic to the wing, allowing the Marine Corps to deploy air assets in support of the ground combat element all the way to the forward edge of the battle area without needing an established logistics base or relying on external agencies to support, Larson added.