MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
When Marines on the ground request close air support to help defeat the enemy, they depend on the ordnance dropped by their brothers in the air.
Ensuring the ordnance works as it’s designed requires the attention of skilled Marines – Leathernecks like the ordnance Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, who recently traveled with their squadron to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., to participate in Desert Talon.
Desert Talon is pre-deployment training for aviation and aviation support units that combines the elements of the Marine Air Ground Task Force and provides realistic training for units deploying in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
The ordnance Marines are not only responsible for loading bombs. They also inventory and inspect ordnance, maintain the aircrafts’ weapons systems, and maintenance ordnance, according to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Aaron B. Stokes, the ordnance officer-in-charge for VMFA-314.
“Every system we check and maintain has to work the first time because a Marine on the ground is relying on it,” said Stokes. “There aren’t many jobs in the Marine Corps that require a Marine to think and work at the speed that these Marines do.”
The Marines of VMFA-314, known as the “Black Knights,” deployed more than 29,000 pounds of ordnance and 2,300 20-millimeter cannon rounds during Desert Talon, added Stokes.
Although Desert Talon gave Marines a chance to adapt to the increased operational tempo of a combat environment, it also helped the ordnance Marines prepare for other aspects of their upcoming deployment to Al Asad, Iraq.
“This environment is what we will deal with in Iraq,” said Stokes. “It is going to be hot, it is going to be sandy and we will not have the same resources there as we do at the air station.”
The Black Knights may also spend time in Afghanistan during their deployment, added Stokes.