AL ASAD, Iraq -- With the blistering sun on their backs and sweat dripping from their faces, the expeditionary airfield Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 began construction on a marshalling pad in Al Asad, April 19.
The marshalling pad will act as a waiting area for fighter or attack aircraft to be armed or disarmed before taking off.
"The marshalling pad is an extension to the already laid concrete areas on the airfield," said Cpl. Michael P. Comi, expeditionary airfield systems technician, MWSS-274, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. "It gives more space for the aircraft to maneuver, as well as load weapons and disarm the missile systems that they use for combat operations."
According to Comi, a 28-year-old native of Albany, N.Y., the pad is needed because there is not enough room on the airfield.
"We have a lot of traffic in this area with the different fighter squadrons coming from all over the country to use this airfield," said Comi, a graduate of George Wythe High School. "By adding onto it, as a marshalling pad is an extension to a taxiway, we are able to accommodate more squadrons."
Although the new marshalling pad gives squadrons more room to maneuver their aircraft, it also provides some safety from the dangers on the flight line.
"We eliminate some of the safety hazards like aircraft coming into contact with ground equipment or each other while they are moving around out here on the airfield," said Comi. "It also reduces traffic and improves the flow of it."
However, if not installed properly, the mats can present a risk to the aircraft.
"Normally, there aren't any problems or hazards to the aircraft with these mats," said Cpl. Jesse J. Marcellin, expeditionary airfield systems technician, MWSS-274. "The problem we've been experiencing is there are a few high spots on the ground, and they are making a lip between the concrete and the h-connector pad that will pinch a tire. That is the reason we have to have this perfectly level when it is finished."
According to Marcellin, a 21-year-old Salt Lake City native, engineers come to the work site to smooth out all of the ground that the pad will be laying on, making it perfectly level with no voids, high spots or low spots.
"Once they are finished, we are going to take our mat and lay it out," said the Cotton Wood High School graduate. "This one in particular is 144 feet long by 74 feet wide. We are going to take it, put it all down, and then, with each mat, we are going to have a locking bar going between them to keep it where we can't pull them up."
Depending on the number of people working on the marshalling pad, as well as what problems persist during the process of laying it down, the extension can be completed in a few days.
"The ground work process probably takes the longest, as we have to coordinate with engineers to get it laid out," said Comi. "Usually for us to lay down our matting and perform our job, it takes about three to four hours.
"The number of people that are used in the process depends on the efficiency of the crews who are working," he added. "The maximum efficiency would be two six-man crews."
According to Comi, the Marines with MWSS-274 are very enthusiastic about installing the marshalling pad.
"This is one of the main responsibilities we perform out here, and we have some of the finest and skilled Marines in the EAF (military occupational specialty) working here," he concluded. "So, it is going to be a job well done, and I'm pretty sure everyone will be satisfied with our performance."