Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Jonathan N. Alphin tightens the lug nuts on the high-power ramp at Al Asad, Iraq, July 14. Alphin, an expeditionary airfield Marine, Marine Wing Support Squadron 274, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, is responsible for maintaining the ramp, which is used by AV-8B Harrier jets to get their engines up to full power for maintenance inspections.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran

EAF Marines ensure pilots safety on runways at Al Asad

27 Nov 2007 | Lance Cpl. Brian J. Holloran

An EA-6B Prowler finishes its mission and starts to return to Al Asad. As the jet closes in on the air base, the pilot realizes there is a problem -- one of the landing gears won't lower. He has to call for an emergency arrestment. The expeditionary airfield Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 get the call.
The aircraft begins to descend towards the flight line, and lowers its tail hook to catch the arrestor cable stretched across the runway. As the aircraft touches down on the runway, the line catches the hook and the aircraft slowly starts to decelerate before tipping slightly to the right side where the malfunctioning landing gear refused to lower.

The Marines rush to extract the aircraft from the arresting gear. The pilot, crew and aircraft have been saved by the EAF Marines, and with a little maintenance work, the jet will be ready to fly again.

Repairing and maintaining the arresting gear is one of the responsibilities of the EAF Marines with MWSS-274, Marine Wing Support Group 37 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

"We inspect the arresting gear and ensure that everything is running properly," said Sgt. Andrew R. Nyser, crew leader, MWSS-274. "We have to come out and perform any scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. We are also called out for emergency arrestments. We give the pilot hand signals to guide them once they catch the line."

The arresting gear is one of the most important tasks that the EAF Marines are responsible for, however, it is only one of their many responsibilities.

"We are responsible for just about everything that occurs on the runway," said Nyser, a native of Barrington, R.I. "We maintain and install the lights on the runway, as well as the rotating light on top of the control tower."

The EAF Marines also construct new surfaces for the squadrons on the flight line.

"We have built a marshalling pad and a high-power ramp for the Harriers," said Cpl. Brad White, EAF technician, MWSS-274.

The marshalling pad is used as a staging area for aircraft waiting to take off. It helps alleviate congestion on the runway and taxiways.

The high-power ramp is used by AV-8B Harriers for maintenance checks.

"The Harrier needs to be able to turn their engines on to full power for many of their routine maintenance checks," said White, a native of Butner, N.C. "With this pad in place, the Harriers can attach themselves to the pad and power up their engines without having to worry about taking off."

With so many responsibilities, it is vital that the EAF Marines are diligent when it comes to their jobs.

"We work 24-hour shifts," said Nyser. "We are out in the blazing sun all day long, and are out all night making sure every single light works on that runway. My Marines are some of the hardest working Marines on this base -- hands down."