SS WRIGHT -- In a few short months, they took a plan and executed it, improvising, adapting and overcoming challenges all the way. The result was an "unprecedented" aviation repair and maintenance mission accomplishment conducted while afloat.
According to Lieutenant Col. Richard P. Flatau, commanding officer, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14 and commander of troops, SS Wright, their first challenge was coordinating the mission with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
"We had an idea (MALS-14) would form the core of the fixed wing repair and maintenance support for the Wing," Flatau said. "We started really coordinating and planning in earnest in early December. We faced numerous challenges to accomplish this mission."
During their coordination and planning, they augmented personnel and equipment from 12 different units, to include MALS-11, MALS-31, Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 and Marine Wing Communications Squadron 28.
Their second obstacle was delays due to weather.
"We have approximately 300 Marines and approximately 240 mobile facilities which we put aboard ship," Flatau said. "There were delays due to the snow, ice and high winds. We received and processed the last of our augments just prior to our departure.
We originally planned for five days to load the ship, we completed it in three days."
Another challenge the unit overcame was their secondary mission, assisting the ship's civilian crew with shipboard operations to include communications, flight deck operations, supply and repair, shipboard defense and messing.
While underway, the Marines ensured their mobile aviation repair and maintenance and other facilities were functioning properly. They finally arrived on station in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations in late February.
Since then, they have accomplished more than 100 safe landings and launches of daily aviation logistics runs, repairing more than 1,000 aviation parts and equipment and returning them for issue.
"This was attempted during the Gulf War," said Flatau. "However, it didn't work well. Then, the ship pulled up to the pier and off-loaded their repaired items and picked up new gear. We accomplished the same mission while afloat off the coast. This is really phenomenal and unprecedented. We accomplished the same mission as we do in the rear with half the personnel "
Flatau credits his Marines' ingenuity for the success of the mission.
"These Marines had great focus and did an outstanding job. They really adapted, improvised and overcame all obstacles," he concluded. "The young Marines really matured in a very short time. There was no bickering between the different units or departments. They overcame many challenges and adversity to accomplish this mission."