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NEWS | Nov. 24, 2014

Maintainers Key to Ospreys' Mission Down Under

By Staff Sgt. Zachary Dyer III Marine Expeditionary Force

Before most drivers head out on an extended road trip, they’ll usually perform some basic preventative maintenance on their vehicle to minimize the chance of a breakdown far from home. Smart drivers will continue that maintenance during travel.

Marine Corps Aircraft work in much the same way, requiring diligent maintenance in order to be able to safely and effectively accomplish the mission. Maintenance Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 and VMM-262 recently put their skills to the test to keep their aircraft flight-ready during a far-flung deployment to Brisbane, Australia.

Five aircraft from the two squadrons, both from Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, made the more than 4,700 mile voyage from Okinawa, Japan, to Brisbane to provide aerial support to Marine Helicopter Squadron One during President Barack Obama’s attendance of the G20 Summit. 

Maintenance on the mission was paramount, according to Maj. Joe Mederos, the VMM-265 aircraft maintenance officer. Keeping the birds in the air was only possible because of the Marines on the ground.

Of the 70 Marines who traveled with the Ospreys during the mission, the vast majority were maintenance Marines, according to Mederos, a Los Angeles native. The Ospreys also carried the equipment and parts needed to sustain the planned flight operations. 

The work to keep the aircraft mission capable while deployed started long before they ever took off for Australia. For about two weeks prior to leaving Okinawa, the squadrons were grooming the aircraft they planned on flying, according to Master Sgt. Robert Robinson, the maintenance control chief for VMM-265.

“You always want to groom an aircraft before you go on a (detachment), to ensure that once you get there nothing is going to break,” explained Robinson, an Adams, New York, native. “Is it 100 percent guaranteed? No. Aircraft are going to break down, even when you’ve prepped them to the best of your ability.” 

Any upcoming maintenance milestones or inspections were taken care of before the planes left Okinawa. The aircraft identified to fly to Australia were serviced extensively during the grooming period, averaging 15 maintenance hours for every one flight hour, according to Robinson. During normal operations the average maintenance-to-flight ratio is approximately three hours of maintenance to every one hour of flight. But, because of the high operational tempo of the mission to Australia, and the increased flight hours, that average dropped to a one-to-one ratio. 

Before all was said and done, the five aircraft would accumulate more than 200 total flight hours before they returned to Okinawa. This means the Marines performed another 200 hours, or 25 eight-hour work days, of maintenance. That kind of schedule is just par for the course for an Osprey squadron in the Pacific, according to Sgt. Lee Bennett, an avionics technician with VMM-265.
“Our operational tempo is fairly high already, it’s just a lot of work,” explained Bennett, a Havelock, North Carolina, native. “But we’re used to it, and we’ve got all our best people out here, composite squadron-wise, so we’re able to pull this off without any major issues.”

The two squadrons worked together, both on the ground and in the air to provide all support requested by HMX-1. Their mission complete, they’re now looking forward to the trip home. 

“My Marines – and when I say my Marines I mean the 262/265 team that was brought together to ensure we had the A Team out here – worked together flawlessly,” said Mederos. “They worked hard. They knew what the mission was, and they always got the mission done.”
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