AL ASAD, Iraq -- A key part in the combat operations of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, Carrier Air Wing One, Carrier Strike Group Twelve, is having armaments prepared to execute the missions given in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"The main mission of the ordnance shop is to ensure the jets are equipped with the proper armaments and to check the electrical wiring, allowing the pilots to drop them when needed," said Cpl. Matthew Fagnani, aircraft ordnance technician, VMFA-251.
The night crew spends their hours working on maintenance and troubleshooting to make sure the F/A-18C Hornet wiring is working properly. The day crew mainly loads the ordnance on the jets, preparing them for launch and making sure they are safe and ready to go.
"Each crew has set responsibilities to accomplish to help prepare the next crew coming on shift," said Lance Cpl. Danny Kwak, aircraft ordnance technician, VMFA-251.
Before every launch, the Marines go through a checklist before the jets are able to take off.
"We conduct every procedure step by step," said Kwak, a 20-year-old native of Tamuning, Guam. "If anything goes wrong, we fix it right away and make sure everything is working properly so nothing goes wrong during the pilot's flight."
Procedures range from having one ordnance Marine brief the pilot on what type of ordnance the jet is armed with, and what the pilots will and will not be able to do after the troubleshoot from the previous night, according to Fagnani, a 20-year-old native of New Oxford, Pa. The ordnance technicians also conduct an electrical check before handing it over to the pilots. As the pilots are on the taxiway, the ordnance shop is responsible for arming and disarming the aircraft.
"Arming and disarming is when the ordnance is being checked and armed and disarmed on the jets on the taxiways," Kwak explained. "This procedure is to make sure the ordnance does not detonate before launch or during recovery."
While the squadron has not been tasked with missions that require ordnance to be delivered on enemy targets, the pilots and ordnance shop remain ready.
"We usually don't receive much new ordnance since we've only dropped about 100 pounds of parachute flares, but other than those, we have not dropped any other ordnance here in Iraq," said Fagnani.
Every piece of ordnance the squadron receives and loads is accounted for by a serial number for tracking purposes.
"We check and keep track of the serial numbers from each piece of ordnance," said Kwak. "When the jets are loaded with ordnance, the serial number is taken down, and when the jets return, we record which ordnance was dropped. The procedure is done with every jet."
The ordnance shop's job has been less complicated and a quicker process than on the aircraft carrier, according to Fagnani.
"We don't have to wait to arm up jets in Iraq," said Kwak. "We are able to get it done right away, which allows (the shop) more time to make sure everything is in order."
Between flights, the shop takes the time to set up the other jets. If all the jets are up and flying, the shop plans out what needs to be done when the aircraft return.
"During spare time, we read up on the ordnance that we use," said Kwak. "This allows us to be more knowledgeable and familiar with each piece of ordnance."
According to Fagnani, all ordnance technicians are required after military occupational specialty school to go through a 180-day training course, where they learn to load every piece of ordnance.
"During the training, it provides us with how things need to be done according to the check list," said Fagnani.
Equipped with the proper training and a team spirit that is seemingly unaffected by the combat operational tempo, these Marines are clearly focused on the task at hand.
"Halfway through the day, things can get hectic but the shop comes together well," said Kwak. "Everyone puts in their effort and does what they're supposed to, getting our pilots ready to fly combat missions."