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Cpl. Timothy R. McGregor unscrews panels from the underside of an F/A-18 Hornet March 1, at Al Asad, Iraq. McGregor is a safety equipment mechanic with the phase maintenance section of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. The section's Marines are each trained in different Military Occupational Specialties, bringing their unique skills to the jet maintenance team. The group of Marines was set up to alleviate the workload of the squadron's other aircraft maintenance sections. The phase maintenance Marines conduct a complete maintenance check of the squadron's Hornets each time one reaches 200 flight hours since its last check.

Photo by Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich

Phase maintenance Marines check under F/A-18 hoods

13 Mar 2006 | Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich

Imagine every time your vehicle travels 3,000 miles, a group of highly skilled experts dismantle it, check all the fluids and parts for wear and tear, then quickly reassemble it.Not a very common occurrence for today's drivers, unless you are a pilot and your vehicle happens to be an F/A-18 Hornet with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. Eight highly skilled Marines with the Hawks' phase maintenance section are responsible for performing a complete maintenance check of the Hornets every time they reach 200 flight hours since their last tune-up."The whole purpose of this shop is to take the workload off the other maintenance shops. Every 200 flight hours we knockout every maintenance check necessary or technical directive that has sprung up," said Staff Sgt. Brad A. Applegate, the phase maintenance staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "Once we got the phase shop going out here, we were able to cut about a week or two off the time needed to complete the maintenance phase of an aircraft."In the United States, a normal maintenance phase takes about two to three weeks because the aircraft is moved from one maintenance section to the next, each working on their specific area of the jet.The phase maintenance section consolidates all the section's jobs, by including Marines with Military Occupational Specialties from across the aircraft maintenance field in its ranks."We have Marines from power line, ordnance and airframes, basically all the work centers," said Applegate, an Arvada, Colo., native. "Most jobs during phase maintenance require multiple people, so we do it all together. In this way, all of us are getting to learn each others' MOSs.""At first, everybody was going through that learning process, but now, everyone is locked on," Applegate added. According to Cpl. Jeffers B. Page, a power plants mechanic and Mobile, Ala., native, it's good to work in phase maintenance because you can do your job, plus increase your knowledge of other jobs. "It's not bad. Basically, we get to tear apart the jet, like tuning up a car," said Lance Cpl. Andrew M. Denney, an aviation electrical systems technician and Quincey, Calif., native.Despite their positive outlook on their task, the Marines in the section admit that during phase maintenance, frustrations arise."The most aggravating thing is the panels," said Page. "They have a thousand screws holding them on. Each one has to be removed or drilled out to inspect the lines and (mechanical devices) underneath." According to Applegate, the entire process of stripping down, repairing and putting the aircraft back together takes less than seven days.The Marines' tireless work does not stop once they are physically done working on one jet, it continues because the squadron's operational tempo is higher here, stated Applegate."I have to keep track of the work done. Phase maintenance also includes paperwork long after the work is completed," said Cpl. William E. Thornton, an airframe mechanic and Ocean City, Md., native. "Sometimes it feels like as soon as we finish one phase another comes in."
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing