EAST CHINA SEA
(Sept. 12, 2010) – Sailors assigned to the aircraft intermediate maintenance department (AIMD) aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) have been working with Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) around the clock to ensure that their aircraft are ready for every mission during exercise Valiant Shield 2010.
Upon embarking the 31ST MEU in Okinawa, Japan, Sept. 5-6, Sailors began working with their Marine counterparts to make sure all the MEU’s aircraft were ready to support the exercise.
“The Marines fit right into work centers seamlessly,” said Master Chief Avionics Technician (AW/SW) Christopher Johnson, AIMD leading chief petty officer. “Sometimes it does take a little bit of time to get Sailors and Marines working together, but not a whole lot. Once the Marines learn the culture of the command and what we need from them, they excel.”
During the exercise, Essex is expected to launch aircraft hundreds of times, and AIMD will play a huge role in keeping those helicopters and jets flying nearly continuously.
“We work in day and night shifts, so someone is working on equipment 24-hours-a-day,” said Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class (AW) Tiffany Roach. “Splitting the work with the Marines makes life easier for us.”
The Marines assigned to AIMD are treated exactly like ship’s company. The Marines report to their assigned shop every morning and assist with the work load, whether it be calibrating vital aviation test equipment or fixing a piece of broken landing gear.
Marine Aviation Logistic Squadron (MALS) 36 is one of several Marine maintenance units that supplement ships with heavy workloads. For Essex’s current patrol, more than 60 MALS 36 Marines are embarked to help AIMD carry out its mission.
“AIMD personnel are capable of higher level maintenance than personnel assigned to the squadrons,” Staff Sgt. Calvin Chee, a helicopter engine mechanic assigned to MALS 36.
The Sailors and Marines working to keep the MEU’s aircraft operational said that working with each other is a valuable experience for both sides.
“We get the chance to work on aircraft we normally wouldn’t work on,” said Roach. “It’s a good learning opportunity for us.”
For many of the Marines, this is their first time working with Sailors at-sea.
“We normally work with Sailors on land,” said Lance Cpl. Denzel Tanchez. “It is different to work with Sailors on their own ship.”
Chee said the teamwork displayed by the Sailors and Marines of Essex’s AIMD embodies what the blue/green team is all about - two sea services working together toward a common goal.
Essex, commanded by Capt. Troy Hart, is part of the forward-deployed Essex Amphibious Ready Group and is on patrol in the Philippine Sea supporting the joint military exercise Valiant Shield 2010.