Al Asad, Iraq -- There are a lot of things that can go wrong when flying 10,000 feet above the ground. Because of this, the Marines from Marine Attack Squadron 513's ejection seat shop stay busy making sure that, should anything go wrong, the AV-8B Harrier pilots always have one last option.
The seat shop Marines work hard everyday to ensure the safety of the pilots that take the birds to the sky.
"My Marines stay pretty busy out here," said Gunnery Sgt. Jeremy R. Tyree, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge, ejection seat shop, VMA-513, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "We are performing daily inspections, as well as any maintenance that comes up along the way."
The seat shop Marines are accountable for many of the avionic cooling systems on board the Harrier.
"Many people assume seat shop is responsible for just the ejection seat, but that is a small part of their daily maintenance," said Capt. Carlton A. Wilson, AV-8B Harrier pilot, VMA-513. "Seat shop is also responsible for all the environmental systems and liquid radar coolants of the aircraft. As you can imagine, there are quite a few coolants in the Harrier, and they tend to need maintenance occasionally."
The Marines of VMA-513's seat shop clean the canopy of the Harriers daily to ensure the pilot has maximum visibility while in the air.
"We need to make sure that the canopy is as clean as possible," said Tyree. "If the pilots can't see clearly then they can't accurately engage the enemy."
The seat shop Marines are also responsible for ensuring the pilot has as few things to worry about as possible while in flight.
"We provide the pilot with the oxygen he needs to operate at high altitudes," said Tyree. "We also ensure that the temperature inside the aircraft is comfortable through maintenance of the heating, air conditioning and cabin pressurization systems. The pilot is a busy man in flight, and the last thing he needs to worry about is being hot or cold."
The Marines from the seat shop have a vital job, and they realize how important their job is.
"My shop's daily work has a major effect on the squadron's mission," said Tyree, a native of New Salisbury, Ind. "If any of our systems are not functioning, then the aircraft is down. It is absolutely critical we get out of there and fix any problems as quickly as possible to get the bird back in the air. It's not just a job, it's personal. I have known most of the aviators for years, and I have met their families. I can't think of a more important job than making sure they get back to those families."
Although pilots would never want to use the ejection seat, which the seat shop Marines are commonly known for, they are still appreciative of the shop's work.
"I think most pilots in the squadron would say there is a special relationship between us and the seat shop Marines, considering it is up to them to make sure our last safety net is always working," said Wilson, a native of Austin, Texas. "They hold our life in their hands."
According to Tyree, deployment is nothing new to the Marines of seat shop, and it is nothing they can't handle.
"I only have one Marine that hasn't been deployed before," said Tyree. "Most of us are on our third or fourth deployment since 2002. These guys are veterans and know how to handle business in a forward deployed environment. We are all Flying Nightmares, and Flying Nightmares carry out business the same wherever they are."