USS BATAAN --
When an automobile’s structural components need repairs or routine maintenance, consumers rely on auto mechanics to diagnose and remedy the malfunction. For AV-8B Harrier pilots, they rely on highly trained airframe mechanics to maintain the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit’s multi-million-dollar aircraft.
Airframe mechanics with Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced), 22nd MEU, serving aboard the USS Bataan, are responsible for keeping the squadron’s AV-8B aircraft always ready.
The Marines maintain the aircrafts’ vital panels, hydraulic systems, landing gear, windscreens, flight controls and other complex internal and external structural components.
The work they complete in the ship’s hangar ensures the short take off and vertical landing attack aircraft can successfully complete numerous missions to include air strikes, close air support, visual reconnaissance and safely returning aviators and planes to the ship.
“Every 200 flight hours we inspect the aircraft,” said Cpl. Gabriel Valdez, an airframe mechanic and collateral duty inspector from San Bernardino, Calif.
Valdez said during routine inspections, Marines inspect a series of aircraft components to ensure they function properly.
When a component must be serviced or replaced, mechanics research manuals and repair the deficiency with delicate precision. Later, collateral duty inspectors carefully review the work for quality assurance.
The mechanics also meticulously maintain the aircraft’s paint, which is frequently exposed to degrading elements, jet blast and various fluids during flight and testing.
During a routine maintenance procedure April 12, 2011, the mechanics replaced a panel on an aircraft’s left wing and used specialized tools to fasten the panel into place. Earlier in the week, the mechanics serviced other components to include the aircraft’s landing gear.
Valdez said each Marine treats each aircraft with the utmost care, and has pride in the work they do, and missions they support.
Lance Cpl. Carlos A. Mejia, an airframe mechanic and New York native, said the job can be extremely stressful, but his hard work pays off when the aircraft launch from the USS Bataan and complete their flights effectively and safely.
Both Marines said they feel honored to maintain such a versatile jet.
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are currently deployed with Amphibious Squadron 6 aboard the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and will continue to train and improve the MEU’s ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission, capable force, commanded by Col. Eric J. Steidl and comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its Command Element.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response to a hostile environment or crisis.