AL ASAD, Iraq -- As Marines carry out flight missions in the Iraqi desert, an essential part of operations is constant maintenance of the aircraft using specialized tools, vehicles and mobile electric power plants.
Ground Support Equipment Marines with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, are tasked with the demanding job of preserving and providing the vital maintenance gear needed by aircraft mechanics to keep 14 aviation squadrons flying.
"Without us out here, maintaining and moving equipment around and doing our part, the mechanics would not be able to do theirs," said Lance Cpl. Courtney E. Hall-Mullen, GSE tool room manager. "We work 12-hour shifts, but usually stay late to ensure tools are cleaned, and if they are worn, they are turned in to quality assurance to be replaced. It's not glamorous, but we do our part and that helps keep the aircraft flying."
The Marines with GSE are part of the Fleet Assistance Program and come from different logistic squadrons throughout the United States to support the squadrons stationed at Al Asad.
"We have a good group of Marines here," said Gunnery Sgt. Robert Owens, GSE staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge. "We went through all the MALS in the states and told them what types of Marines we needed. We came to Iraq with the best shop we could ask for."
Some Marines with MALS-16 are sent to flying squadrons on the flight line to manage equipment checked out from GSE by the squadrons.
"I was FAPed from MALS-16 to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 466 to repair and maintain the equipment the squadron needs," said Lance Cpl. Gregory B. Williams, a GSE mechanic and San Diego native. "It makes it easier for us to maintain the equipment if there is one of us right on the flight line."
The Marines from GSE repair and maintain machinery and tools for an assortment of aircraft to include cargo planes, helicopters and fighter attack jets in the country.
"Each aircraft has equipment that is specific to it, and we ensure the Marines working on it get what they need," said Hall-Mullen, a native of Benton City, Wash. "After all, what is a mechanic without his tools?"
According to Owens, an Albuquerque, N.M., native, GSE supports all Forward Operating Bases and Forward Arming and Refueling Points throughout Iraq.
"As long as flights are going out, there is a constant need for maintenance and we will be here waiting for the call," said Cpl. Leonard V. Peralta, a GSE mechanic from Norfolk, Va.