Ordnance Marines give ‘Sharpshooters’ their bang

8 May 2009 | Cpl. Christopher A. O'Quin

Each time a pilot from Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 takes off from the flight line here, the aviation ordnance technicians ensure that the pilot can use a variety of live and training ordnance for completing his mission.

The Marines, sailors and civilians with the squadron known as the “Sharpshooters” repair, monitor and maintain all gear associated with their F/A-18’s ordnance, to include multiple ejection racks, practice bombs and flares.

“This section’s purpose is to assist Navy and Marine replacement pilots in ordnance delivery so they can go out into the fleet to do their job as best as possible,” said Gunnery Sgt. Nick A. Amaya, the noncommissioned officer in charge for the Sharpshooters. “To ensure they get the most out of their training, our Marines and sailors follow numerous safety procedures through the entire process of loading and unloading the F/A-18’s ordnance.”

Before they load or unload the ordnance, the crews make sure the aircraft is properly grounded with a certified strap. Grounding reduces the risk of static electricity buildup that would cause a misfire or mishap with the equipment. The ordnance technicians take several other steps to ensure safety. They also ensure all arming and de-arming, whether done in the combat aircraft loading area or their section of the flight line, is performed in the designated areas.

Groups of ordnance technicians swarm numerous aircraft to install improved multiple ejection racks and the ordnance required for the day’s training. The technicians can load equipment onto an aircraft in a few minutes. The Marines also spend their time training with ordnance they may not normally use.

“As a corporal you mentor the younger Marines to teach and train them for their job,” said Cpl. Nathan K. Chapman, an aviation ordnance technician with the Sharpshooters. “My career highlight was when I deployed. I was able to see my handiwork make an impact and it was rewarding.”

The squadron loads approximately 30,000 pounds of ordnance each month for pilots to use at training ranges on various installations such as, Naval Air Station El Centro Calif., Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center 29 Palms and Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

To acquire the ordnance for training, the Sharpshooters request it from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 11. A few days later, the squadron delivers it to them. The ordnance technicians inspect each piece of newly acquired gear, and sign for accountability before loading them onto the aircraft.

“Part of maintaining the squadron, is keeping inventory straight,” said Amaya. “Accountability is crucial in any ordnance section.”

The section is staffed by 50 personnel who support approximately 46 aircraft per day for 30 training events. They train with inert practice and 500-pound high explosive bombs, inert missiles and laser guided training rounds, in addition to several other types of ordnance.

“We run schedules four to five times larger than any other squadron here on Miramar,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kenneth Aikey, the aviation ordnance officer for the Sharpshooters. “I’m proud of the fact that these Marines, sailors and civilians can run the daily flight schedule just like the cycle on a aircraft carrier throughout the year.”

With each training mission, the devotion of the aviation ordnance section ensures the safe and accurate deployment of the weapons, when training for future engagements.