KUWAIT -- The expansive complex, able to house millions of pounds of ordnance, has been the center of intense activity since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Ammunition Supply Point here was built from sand on the ground to a fully operational ordnance compound, shared by Marine, Air Force and British aviation ordnance personnel.
Aviation ordnance Marines from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, an element of Marine Aircraft Group 13 from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., have been working long, intense hours to build and maintain the precision guided munitions used by MAG-13's AV-8B II Harriers during the operation, which began March 19.
The MALS-13 aviation Marines have combined efforts with counterparts from MALS-11, -14, -16 and -31 to collectively prepare and stage all the munitions needed by Marine Corps pilots flying in and out of the air base. This includes the 500-pound Guided Bomb Unit-12 and 1000-pound GBU-16 bombs as well as Maverick missiles, cluster bombs, and gun systems used by the Marine Harriers and F-18s, said Capt. Bill Wadley, MALS-13 aviation ordnance officer, Buckeye Lake, Ohio native.
A large part of the aviation ordnance Marines' work is building smart bombs, Wadley said. Producing a smart bomb entails adding a computer-guided nosepiece to the front of the GBUs, and a tailpiece is added for stability and flight longevity.
The added components transform much older technology into progressive, up-to-date munitions, said Wadley.
"The 500-pound and 1000-pound 'dumb' bombs we have here were probably made in the '70s or '80s," he said. "We make them into precision-guided weapons with unprecedented accuracy."
The demand for accurate weapons during Operation Iraqi Freedom has translated into long, hard hours of work at the ASP, Wadley said.
"At the height of the bombing campaign there would be 50 Marines working at any given time of the day or night to produce the smart bombs," he said.
The Marines produced as many as 500 smart bombs in one day and have averaged approximately 100 a day since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, said Wadley.
"The Marines have been working 12 to 16 hour days, seven days a week, in rain, wind and sand storms, and have done it without complaint," said Wadley.
The biggest challenge has been the welfare of the troops and making sure they are cared for, said Master Gunnery Sgt. Gregory Huggler, MALS-13 forward operating base detachment aviation ordnance Staff Non-Commissioned Officer-In Charge, Alpena, Mich., native.
"They've been working around the clock with minimal breaks. They stop to get some water or eat a MREs and then they go straight back to work," said Huggler.
The troops are holding up well and doing an outstanding job, according to Huggler.
"The workload has been intense, said Sgt. Marie Govier, MALS-13 aviation ordnancman, Walnut Shade, Mo.
"In Yuma it was a big deal to build 10 bombs in one day, now we build 50 on a slow day," said Govier. "After the start of the war we worked long hours."
According to the Marines, during these long hours they weren't focusing on their fatigue or discomfort, but instead kept working hard, fueled by the thought of the Marines and coalition forces on the ground who needed air support.
"If we didn't do our job then more service members would die," said Govier. "The thought of the POW that was rescued kept me going. I thought about the other POWs that still needed help."
Sgt. Leland Hughes, MALS-13 aviation ordnanceman, Gahanna, Ohio native, was motivated by the same thoughts during the long work hours.
"Knowing that our job here is taking care of our forward brothers kept me going," Hughes said. "We're happy knowing we're taking care of our own."
Govier, like many other Marines, is proud to be a part of something that will help keep Americans safe in the future. A motivating factor for many service members is knowing that participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom could help to create stability in the region and lessen the threat to Americans back home.
During the first days of the war warning sirens sent Marines running to protective bunkers in full NBC gear, recalled Govier.
"I'm glad to know that my family won't ever have to do that back home in America," she said.
Cpl. Justin Ruggerio, MALS-13 aviation ordnanceman, New Richmond, Wis. native, expressed a similar sentiment about his involvement in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I've wanted to deploy since Sept. 11, 2001 to be a part of fighting terrorism and making the United States safer," said Ruggerio. "I think this operation will help that effort."
Ruggerio and his coworkers agree that the most difficult part of supporting the operation has not been the work load, but rather the separation from home.
"Being away from my wife has been the most difficult part of deploying," he said. "The mail has been better than I expected though and that has helped."
The experience of deploying to Kuwait combined with watching the events in Iraq transpire have strengthened his appreciation for home, said Cpl. Theodore Takacy, MALS-13 aviation ordnanceman, Williamstown, Ky. native,
"After seeing how bad other people have it you realize how great the U.S. is," he said. "Being here makes you appreciate the small things."
Like the other service members deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Takacy is grateful for the steadfast support from family, churches, schools and other organizations that have expressed their support through electronic mail, postal mail and care packages.
"The support has been great," he said.
Despite the difficulties of deployment and intense workloads, Sgt. Steve Schmid, MALS-13 aviation ordnance, Manassas, Va. native, is proud to play his part.
Most people watch history unfold from home, but deployed Marines actually get to be a part of what is happening in the world, said Schmid, who is happy to be in Kuwait supporting the Marine Corps' ordnance needs.
"We're all just little parts in the game but every piece helps."