KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- For aviation ordnance Marines, one of the most exasperating parts of their job is to see an aircraft return home with a full load of bombs, rockets, and bullets.
However, in recent days, a rash of combat sorties has alleviated that headache for ordnance technicians assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced), the aviation combat element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).
Ever since June 2, when infantry forces assigned to the MEU began engaging anti-coalition militia in near-daily of running gun battles in central Afghanistan, the ordnance technicians for the squadron's AV-8B Harrier II detachment have been busier than ever.
"Flying the same bombs every day gets boring," said Lance Cpl. Paul Harrison, of Sonora, California, an HMM-266 (Rein) ordnance technician. "It's motivating now that we're finally dropping stuff."
According to one ordnance tech who had just finished loading a 25mm gun pod onto a Harrier slated for a close air support mission, they are responsible for more than just loading up rockets and bombs.
"We also do all the counter-measures, or chaff," he said, "and we also load the Litening pod [targeting system] and basically all the external systems. After every mission, whether they drop ordnance or not, we're working."
"Most of our work has been loading GBUs [guided bomb units], five-inch rockets, and 25mm gun pods," Harrison added.
In addition to an externally-loaded 25mm gun pod mounted under the centerline of the aircraft, the Harrier is capable of dropping a wide range of munitions, including 500 and 1,000-pound 'dumb' or guided bombs, cluster munitions, anti-armor missiles, and can be outfitted with air-to-air missiles.
According to Harrison, the first time a Harrier returned without the ordnance it left with, the pilot was met with cheers.
"After all, supporting the troops in combat is the only reason we're here."
In addition to HMM-266 (Rein), the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, and MEU Service Support Group 22. The MEU is in Afghanistan conducting combat and civil military operations as Task Force Linebacker.
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.