VMA-542 power line Marines keep Harriers in the fight

2 Oct 2004 | Cpl. Paul Leicht

Every day, before and after every flight, enlisted Marines work with Marine pilots here to make sure their aircraft are operational and ready for missions.

For the power line Marines of Marine Attack Squadron 542, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, being able to get their squadron's AV-8B Harriers cleared for flight here is a job that they take very seriously.

"Before each flight we work very closely with the pilot to prepare the jet for before he taxis out for take off," said 33-year-old Sgt. E.L. Ross Jr., power plant collateral duty inspector, VMA-542. "We conduct a full inspection of all the aircraft's systems before and after each flight.

"We inspect the engines, the fuel systems, water and basically anything on the outside of the aircraft from the refueling probe to the tires," he added. "There is no margin for error out here and we have to be 100 percent right all the time."

Ross, added that power line Marines, through attention to detail and dedication, ensure the integrity of the aircraft so that the pilot can fly safely and accomplish his mission.

"We have a special relationship with the pilots because we are right there on the outside of the aircraft telling him whether things are good to go," said Ross. "There is a lot of trust between us."

Given the importance of their job, the amount of latitude the power line Marines receive to perform their duties is understandable.
"The bottom line is that a Marine's life is in our hands," said 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Nathaniel E. Insley, plane captain, VMA-542, and a native of Wesson, Miss. "We have final say on whether a jet is safe to fly and with that authority comes a lot of responsibility."

To earn the title of plane captain, power line Marines spend up to 6 months learning as much as they can about each of their aircraft's avionics systems.

"Becoming a plane captain is not easy and for a young lance corporal to earn that shows a lot of motivation and technical knowledge," said Ross. "They are trouble-shooters too and if they find anything wrong with a jet they have full authority to cancel a flight until the problem can be solved so our jets can stay in the fight."

The accomplishments of the squadron's power line Marines have not gone unnoticed.

"They are really doing an outstanding job," said Lt. Col. Russell A. Sanborn, commanding officer, VMA-542. "We are proud of them and appreciate what they do for us and our aircraft everyday."