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August 16, 2013

Marines slather national forest with ‘snot’

In the shadow of the historic Norconian Hotel and former Corona Naval Hospital, members of Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 374 from Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms, Calif., set up camp at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach (NWSSB) Detachment Norco, home of Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division. The group conducted a field exercise, applying a dust reduction product at a helicopter landing zone in the Cleveland National Forest, the following day.

 

NORCO, Calif. – Marines call it Rhino Snot. It’s a thick, white goop resembling Elmer’s school glue. But this isn’t your children’s glue. This is high tech, military-grade polymer that earned its name on the gritty battlefield of Afghanistan.

And the nine members of Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 who brought it to town weren’t using it for arts and crafts either. They camped out at the Navy base in Norco, Calif., using it as a two-day staging ground for an important July 31 mission.

At the break of dawn, Marines left Norco to spray a metric ton of this sticky glop on a nearby Cleveland National Forest hilltop, aiming to trap dust on an isolated landing site used for aircrew training.

Hours later, an MV-22B Osprey from Miramar, Calif., landed on the treated, dirt site to put their work to the test. Despite pounding wind generated by the Osprey’s dual rotors, the Rhino Snot held everything beneath its hardened shell, producing a remote landing zone fit for military training.

So, within 24 hours of arriving in Horsetown USA, the Marines had accomplished their dust-trapping mission. It may not seem like much, but it can be critical for military pilots operating in extreme environments.

“We need to keep the surface hard so that when aircraft land on top, there’s no corrosion or visibility loss from dust flying up,” said Marine Cpl. David B. Spier of Baltimore, Md., who helps operate the squadron’s truck-mounted hydroseeder, a high-pressure water cannon used to disperse the Rhino Snot.

“You’re up high, you’re riding on the back of a 7-ton [truck],” said Spier. “But you gotta be careful when you’re spraying certain things.”

This stuff is notorious for ruining uniforms, he said, so Marines wear coveralls when working with Rhino Snot, a nickname for Envirotac II, an environmentally safe blend of polymers that takes its name from Camp Rhino, the first U.S. forward operating base established in Afghanistan. Those troops named the goop, and the name just, well, stuck.

“It’s said you can’t give yourself your own nickname. You have to earn it,” said Justin Vermillion, the vice president of Environmental Products & Applications, Inc., which makes Envirotac. “Well, we earned that nickname and have a lot of pride in it . I feel there is no better testament in our industry than to proudly say our military chooses to use our product.”

These Marines had to do the job right – their boss was doing an inspection later that afternoon.

Col. Patrick A. Gramuglia, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 16, arrived aboard the Osprey and put the landing site to the test. Following the successful landing, he joined in a ceremonial Snot spray along the last stretch of dirt, receiving a special, white hardhat to commemorate the occasion from the crew. Gramuglia extended his own appreciation by presenting members with his signature command coin, a military tradition reserved for exceptional performance.

“This squadron here is able to do almost as much as the Navy Seabees,” Gramuglia said. “The range of capabilities within our aircraft wing is absolutely unique to the Marine aviation community, and this support squadron adds to that immensely.”

This particular landing zone is advantageous because of its elevation and proximity to several military airfields, Gramuglia said. The officer in charge of the team operating from Norco cited that proximity to the warfare center also affords his team a convenient location to base their future operations, as the location serves as a geographic hub for surrounding military installations in Southern California.




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