Photo Information

Lance Cpl. Phillip Slaughter (left) and Sgt. Kevin Hudson prepare the fueling probe of one of the F/A-18C Hornets at Al Asad, Iraq, Sept. 21. Slaughter is an F/A-18 fixed-wing aircraft airframe mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, Carrier Air Wing One, Carrier Strike Group Twelve. Slaughter is a native of Brookpark, Ohio. Hudson is an F/A-18 fixed-wing aircraft airframe mechanic with VMFA-251. Hudson is a Talladega, Ala., native.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Nikki M. Fleming

Operations assists Thunderbolts' mission readiness

25 Sep 2006 | Lance Cpl. Nikki M. Fleming

It is important to stay focused on the task at hand while in Iraq. Squadrons carry out plans, missions and any required training every single day. With the help of the squadron's operations office, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251, Carrier Air Wing One, Carrier Strike Group Twelve, is more organized to better complete its mission.

"The mission of the operations office is to plan the squadron's daily operations, to train pilots and to conduct ground training," said Maj. Kevin Massett, operations officer, VMFA-251. "Some of the daily routines of the office are to write the flight schedule, track flight hours and run the daily flight schedule."

Every day is used to maintain and attain the squadron's readiness, whether the squadron's readiness means having proficient pilots, having required firefighting training prior to embarking or conducting annual physical fitness tests. The management of information is the operation office's responsibilities, added Massett, a 34-year-old native of Centereach, N.Y.

"The flight schedule is similar to a commanding officer's plan of the day," said Sgt. Odaydrian Simmons, aviation operations specialist noncommissioned officer-in-charge, VMFA-251. "The flight schedules are compiled from information obtained from the operation officer's information log, formations and briefings held that day, or any other events."

According to Massett, operations officers are in charge of any administrative task, pilot training, coordinating tasks from higher headquarters, ground training and classified material while all organization of information is handled by operations clerks.
"The day crew will come in and catch up on what the night crew had left to input, the missions, the pilot's flight hours, and which mission each pilot flew," said Lance Cpl. Erik Pye, aviation operations specialist, VMFA-251.

The operations office consists of Simmons, a 22-year-old native of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and two other Marines. The three Marines complete the many tasks assigned to the section.

"In a small staffed office, it would normally be hard to maintain organized information and complete the job," said Simmons. "The officers who work in the office are also pilots, which are on a different schedule based on their flight missions, so it is essential our tasks are done right the first time. The office hasn't had much trouble since the Marines who work alongside of me are hard workers and get everything done in a timely manner."

While in Iraq, the operations clerks sometimes work up to 20-hour days because they stay until the final jet lands for the day, which can be as late as 4 a.m. the next morning.

"Compared to the hours on the carrier, they are not much different," said Pye, a 24-year-old Boston native. "There are days where the workload is a little heavier than others."

Massett added that he has a lot of good officers and enlisted Marines to handle all the department is responsible for, and they juggle more information than he could ever handle on his own.  

"Everything with our job is based on consistency and making sure everything is in order for the squadron to run smoothly," said Simmons.

According to Pye, the operations office in a squadron is important because it keeps track of all the pilots' hours, their qualifications, when they need to re-qualify, the hours each jet flies and how the squadron is working as a whole.

"We really plan and coordinate both the daily routine of the squadron and plan future operations, both tactical operations and routine operations," said Massett. "Just about every unit has an operations department since it is vital to any unit's success."  

During the Thunderbolts' deployment in Iraq, the operations office coordinates with CAW-1 operations, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) operations, and the Combined Air Operations Center.

"I don't think the success rate in the office could be any better," said Pye. "With all that needs to be done, we come together as a team and finish the task. Mission complete!"