AL ASAD, Iraq -- Issues Marines face on a daily basis, which can lessen their quality of life and hinder their mission, include downed power generators, lights not turning on, mud bogs created by standing water and gear or personnel needing transportation.
The Forerunners can turn to five talented, multi-tasking Marines with the logistics section of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, to solve these and other miscellaneous problems and tasks as they spring up.
"We are responsible for the maintenance of five barracks, six hangars, the base ordnance building and our headquarters," said Lance Cpl. Pranil K. Shankar, a logistics/embarkation and combat service support specialist, MALS-16. "We work on lighting, heating, water, painting and power problems to maintain a certain level of comfort for the Marines."
While requests to the section are varied, one above all others fills their logbook more than any other.
"Generators go down all the time, so most of the problems we work on are electrical," said 1st Lt. Randolph C. Chase, logistics officer, MALS-16. "Logistics is a world where if everything is going smooth then nobody notices us, but if not, then we're the first ones called."
According to Shankar, a log is necessary to track the amount of requests for maintenance coming in.
"I have records from 2005 showing where and when stuff was worked on. Now, I am reconciling those past requests with current ones," said the Sacramento, Calif., native. "Now I can prioritize and know which requests are important and need to be done."
Helping the logistics Marines accomplish some of those maintenance tasks are government contractors, third country nationals and Marine Wing Support Squadrons.
"The contractors have been pretty good and MWSSs have been great in support," stated Shankar.
In addition to shouldering the squadron's facility maintenance load, Shankar and the logistics section also handle the embarkation of the Forerunner's gear and personnel into and out of Al Asad.
"There are embarkation representatives for each of the 16 divisions within MALS-16. I train all of them on the proper embarkation procedures," commented Shankar. "This means, I have to know how to transport each division's gear, whether it is a helicopter blade or a Pettibone crane."
Following proper embarkation procedures for gear becomes especially important when it is hazardous materials, because the Air Force has specific regulations regarding their transport, explained Shankar.
Even though the Marines in the MALS-16 logistics section are trained embarkation specialists and logisticians, their duties draw upon their ability to adjust to the different tasks to be done.
"The embarkation of gear, fixing of broken buildings, motor transport, accurate counts of MALS-16 weapons, all are our responsibilities. We like to call ourselves 'jacks-of-all-trades,' but masters of none," said Chase, a Johnstown, Pa., native.
According to Shankar, although they face a constant string of broken lights to be fixed and hundreds of pieces of gear to be embarked, the logistics section still has a clear mission ahead.
"Our ultimate goal is to provide solid logistics service throughout the deployment and then smoothly turn the squadron's facilities over to the next aviation logistics squadron better than we received it," stated Shankar.