AL ASAD, Iraq -- The increased combat demands placed upon 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing air assets during Operation Iraqi Freedom II have not become a setback, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Aviation Logistics Department here.
"The mission of the Aviation Logistics Department is to provide policy, guidance, oversight, assistance and support to the tactical air groups of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing," said Col. Gary D. Fraley, assistant chief of staff, ALD, 3rd MAW, and 55-year old native of Hubbardstown, W.V.
Divided into six components of equal magnitude, the ALD is responsible for the behind-the-scenes support that keeps 3rd MAW planes and helicopters prepared for battle.
"We all have to do our part to make the whole team successful," said Maj. Jerry B. Schmidt, 43-year-old avionics officer, ALD, 3rd MAW. I don't think any one portion of ALD is any more important than the others. We're just one big happy family."
By installing aircraft survivability systems, which include warning and indication mechanisms, the avionics branch of ALD is able to provide personnel aboard 3rd MAW aircraft with a considerable amount of protection from the beginning to the conclusion of the flights.
"Our function is to ensure that our air crews have the best possibility of surviving their missions," remarked the Greenhills, Ohio, native.
"From the time the (air crew) enters the airplane, most every system on the plane is touched by avionics. These are the systems that deter enemy missile attacks, give pilots warning indications on when they're being engaged by the enemy and disperse the correct countermeasures to abort the threat. Our focus is providing air crew with the most survivable aircraft in the world, and we take it personal," said Schmidt.
"The bottom line is keeping the aircraft ready to fly missions," said Lt. Col. George R. Knisley, aviation supply officer, ALD, 3rd MAW. "The aviation supply role in that is checking to make sure that parts are available. We work closely with the (Marine Aviation Logistics Squadrons), monitoring all of their readiness reports and tracking the status of parts being sent from the supply system."
In addition, the 47-year-old of native of Salinas, Calif., mentioned that aviation supply works hand-in-hand with the other sections of ALD, including aviation maintenance, to ensure the proper equipment arrives in a timely fashion.
The maintenance section of ALD is able to provide resources such as technical assistance and make battle damage repairs to downed aircraft, said Capt. Raymond E. Barnett, aviation maintenance officer, ALD, 3rd MAW.
"Battle damage repair, so far, has primarily consisted of fixing the small-arms fire that we see from all the hostilities we have in (Iraq)," said the 41-year-old. "We have a lot of highly trained personnel out here who have repaired about 99 percent of the aircraft damaged since we arrived in theater."
The Fort Wayne, Ind., native, mentioned that his section also provides the 3rd MAW commanding general and his staff with vital information concerning the best courses of action in recovering damaged aircraft, as well as status reports and repair timelines.
In a related role to the staff of the ALD, Joint Combat Assessment Team is able to process information from damaged aircraft on site and provide pertinent information to the unit commander.
"Our primary purpose is to ensure that the Marine combat pilot has an accurate assessment of what the real threat is out there before they go fly their missions," said Navy Capt. Gary S. Tollerene, JCAT team leader, JCAT, ALD, 3rd MAW and 46-year-old, Mansfield, Texas, native.
"We are kind of like a (Crime Scene Investigation) team for combat-damaged airplanes," added Air Force Lt. Col. Tony E. Brindisi, JCAT program manager, JCAT, ALD, 3rd MAW and 49-year-old native of Paterson, N.J. "By looking at these airplanes after they are (damaged), we can tell (Maj. Gen. James F. Amos) within a very short period of time, what threats are hitting the planes, so he knows how to plan better and allow missions to be carried out more safely."
The capability the JCAT brings to the ALD is unique personnel-wise as well, said Tollerene.
"The JCAT is a joint team consisting of both Air Force and Navy officers that are deployed to support the Wing. That is significant because a JCAT is not normally organic to the Marine Corps."
The firepower supplied to 3rd MAW aircraft, enabling them to accurately "drop warheads on foreheads", is requisitioned and implemented by the ordnance section, said Maj. Joseph R. Boehm, 42-year-old ordnance officer, ALD, 3rd MAW.
"Since (3rd MAW) is primarily a helicopter unit (here), ordnance deals with a lot of rockets and a lot of Hellfire and (tube launched, optically tracked, wire guided) missiles. We also provide quite a bit of crew-served ammunition, such as .50 caliber and 7.62 rounds, as well as 20mm rounds for the Cobras. Also, we deal with all kinds of countermeasures for all the aircraft platforms, because in a combat environment, everybody needs countermeasures," offered the Hollywood, Fla., native.
According to Boehm, the ordnance provided in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II to 3rd MAW aircraft has been extremely effective.
"Our missiles have been very accurate so far. Our guns have been working very well and our countermeasures have saved us quite a few helicopters already," he said.
The proverbial thread that joins the daily and future operations of ALD together resides in the Plans section, said Lt. Col. Scott A. Matthews, plans officer, ALD, 3rd MAW and Greensboro, N.C., native.
"We look forward into the future and do all the aviation support planning for fixed wing and rotary-wing aircraft," stated the 45-year-old plans officer. "We tie in the other sections of ALD by going to them for their input and we also coordinate with the subordinate MALS units for their feedback as well."
While in a combat environment, the role encompassed by the plans section varies slightly from its garrison mission.
"Probably the biggest thing we do in-theater is assisting in moving and tracking of people and equipment so they get here in the most expeditious and timely manner," Matthews said. "If we can't get the parts or personnel to the right place, then our readiness could suffer."
1st Lt. Eric L. Wilkerson, assistant aviation officer, ALD, 3rd MAW, and native of Belleville, Ill., probably summed up the role of the ALD best as he put everything in perspective.
"Overall, all of us at ALD are like the stagehands in a big production," stated the 31-year-old. "The pilots are actually the movie stars."