September 13, 2012

Engine integrity begins with MALS power plants

Story and photo by Cpl. Sean Dennison
Desert Warrior Staff
Sgt. Michael Garcia, left, a Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 power plants mechanic and a native of Portland, Texas, and Cpl. Jesus Monroy, a MALS-13 power plants mechanic and a native of Long Beach, Calif., perform a maintenance check on one of the AV-8B Harrier’s engines at the MALS-13 power plants division, Sept. 10.

Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s powerline mechanics handle the engines, but who, then, handles the engine parts?

That would be the power plants mechanics of Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13.

MALS-13 power plants sector is a third of the Corps’ Harrier engine maintenance capability, with their Corps counterparts being MALS-14 at MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., as well as a civilian sector in the same locations.

Day in, day out, the MALS-13 power plants division vigilantly works on the engines to ensure the Marine Attack Squadrons’ operations are fluid, but above all, to ensure the sustainability of the aircraft. That’s more than $3.5 million worth of Rolls Royce F402-RR-408B engines the mechanics must deal with.

Why the importance? The engine gives the Harrier the powerful thrust required for the aircraft’s trademark vertical lift.

“We repair motors,” said Sgt. Griffin York, the MALS-13 work center supervisor for power plants division and a native of Pendleton, Ind. “It’s our job to have engines ready for them (the VMAs) at all times.”

Attack squadron maintainers and MALS-13 maintainers is known as O-level (organization) and eye-level, respectively, denoting the depth of which the two work in their respective fields. For example, a VMA powerline mechanic will work on the engine of the Harrier to including installing it within the jet, whereas a MALS power plants mechanic will deconstruct the engine if there are any problems or construct it before sending it to the VMAs.

“We assemble, disassemble the engine and engine-related components and test them,” said Cpl. Dustin Madoll, a MALS-13 power plants division collateral duty inspector and a native of Middle River, Minn.

“They (the VMAs) take an engine from us and put it in the aircraft,” added York. “If they have any trouble, they come to us.”

Yearly, the MALSs, along with the Intermediate Maintenance Activity department and the Navy’s Fleet Readiness Center fulfill what they call engine readiness goals. They distribute dozens of engines around the Marine Corps, usually going well into the hundreds.The tally given on Jan. 31, 2010, for example, saw MALS-13 distribute 54 engines throughout 2009, with MALS-13 sending off 36 and the FRC sending 42, respectively. Even with the rapid tempo, MALS power plants has its own crosses, well, engines, to bear.

“It depends on our production goals,” said Madoll, “or whether a squadron has full flight capabilities.”

“It makes for long hours when we can’t get the parts,” he added with a dark chuckle.

Power plant mechanics still smile in the workplace, the pain of long hours and greasy fingers carefully constructing engines giving way to the pleasure of knowing the roar of the Harrier flying outside is due to them, one of two sectors to help support one of the Corps’ oldest jets.

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