AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- As sirens wail, Marine aircrews hastily assemble and prepare their aircraft with two solemn purposes in mind -- evacuate the wounded and take the fight to the enemy. In this effort, the Marines in the airboss shop come together in an impressive ballet of camaraderie to launch, execute and recover aviation operations here.
The group of Marines controlling the aviation action here are individual augments from the operations sections of Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 3 and Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. The job is considered a temporary duty.
While the pilots and aircrews stationed here are well known and recognized for their role in providing casualty evacuation and combat support to ground units, other jobs receive less recognition but are no less important.
Working diligently behind the scenes, the airboss shop serves as a vital link in the chain of command, ensuring that the flying squadrons receive the information they need to accomplish the mission.
Lt. Col. Shaun Sadler, a UH-1N Huey pilot and acting 3rd MAW officer-in-charge here, ensures all wing units receive adequate base and logistical support in addition to supervising the operations of the airboss section.
According to Maj. Brian Lipiec, an AH-1W Cobra pilot and the assistant airboss, the work requires clear, concise communication and attention to detail. Failure to provide accurate information to the operational units could result in the loss of human life.
Ensuring that their section receives and passes on accurate information is no easy task. Airboss Marines stay abreast of current events by closely monitoring a classified computer-based chat forum and nine phone lines that keep them in continuous contact with various 1st Marine Expeditionary Force units.
While their primary function is the flow and coordination of critical information and immediate air support, the Marines of the airboss section are responsible for accomplishing a number of other routine tasks.
Acting as the flight clearance section, they take on the responsibility of scheduling and monitoring all military and civilian air traffic aboard the airfield.
"There are literally hundreds of flights that come into the airfield each day," said Lance Cpl. Mitchell Holness, flight clearance clerk originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Al Taqqadum frequently hosts visiting guests. The airboss section closely monitors their movement and cooperates with the 1st Marine Logistics Group's headquarters element to ensure that the personnel are supported during their stay.
Gunnery Sgt. John Knight, the airboss chief, notes that operations involving important visitors can require a significant amount of attention, and he emphasizes the importance of close, interagency coordination to ensure that the mission is accomplished.
Although their duties are demanding and require constant attention, the Marines take pride in their work and constantly push towards greater proficiency.
According to Sgt. Thomas Drake, airboss noncommissioned officer, fulfilling the duties of an airboss can be challenging at times. It is not uncommon to find yourself in a situation where one must multitask administrative activities while coordinating a CASEVAC or close air support mission to support troops in contact with enemy forces.
"The job can be mentally draining at times, but at the end of the day, it is all worth it," said Drake, a Dallas, Ore., native. "The aircrews and Navy medical personnel deserve all the credit, but it feels good to know that you played a small role in helping to save a life or make the enemy have a miserable day."
The precise action and dedicated service of those few Marines in the airboss shop provides a multiplying force and, possibly, a life altering difference each day for every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and civilian in the I MEF area of responsibility.