AL-ASAD, Iraq -- Close-air support evolves as military technology continues to improve. Despite the advances, one thing remains constant -- it takes manpower to handle and load each piece of ordnance onto an aircraft.
For the ordnance Marines of Marine Attack Squadron 542, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), ensuring the AV-8B Harrier packs a punch remains mission number one.
The Harrier is capable of flying a wide variety of weapons and provides close air support at low altitudes, explained Cpl. Michael P. Smithwick, aviation ordnance technician, VMA-542.
Without ordnance, the Harrier is just a jet; the ordnance Marines turn the aircraft into a weapon, added Cpl. Douglas G. Koenig, aviation ordnance technician, VMA-542.
Because of the ordnance Marines’ around-the-clock efforts, Marine infantrymen on the ground can rely on added protection from the “Tigers” day and night.
“If I take three or four of my Marines and get a job done correctly and safely the first time, that means we have Marine air support on time and on target,” said Koenig an Erie, Penn. native.
In Iraq, the Marine Corps uses the AV-8B Harrier for a lot of its close air support missions because the Harrier’s capabilities enable it to deliver anything from illumination flares and missiles to large precision-guided bombs.
“I feel like we are doing our job in support of this war,” explained Koenig. “There is nothing more satisfying to an ordnanceman than to see a jet come back without its bombs and to know your hard work saved the lives of ground troops.”
Though the Marines work long hours with thousands of pounds of explosives, the biggest challenge the Marines face is being away from home.
The Marines out here miss their families, but they know why they’re out here and make that sacrifice willingly, added Smithwick, an Eldorado, Kan. native.
“I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we are proud of what we are doing out here,” said Koenig. “We have a lot of pride knowing that we are having an impact on the war effort here.”