Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 ordnance technicians gave station Marines a glimpse of the bread and ballistics of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma’s aviation operations, Nov. 19, during a, “Follow the Bomb,” event.
Follow the Bomb, which began three years ago, provides non-ordnance Marines a chance to spend the day with MALS-13 ordnance technicians, the men and women who assemble and distribute the bombs and munitions used by the aircraft on base, primarily the AV-8B Harriers.
The purpose of this event is to educate the bomb followers on aviation ordnance, a mission-essential task that they indirectly support by merit of them being part of base operations.
The day is exactly like it sounds: Marines witness the assembly and distribution of the bombs, from the MALS-13 ordnance technicians building them to the Marine Attack Squadron ordnance technicians loading the bomb onto the aircraft.
“It provides a different perspective,” said Lance Cpl. Christine Keaney, a Marine Aircraft Group 13 intelligence specialist and a native of Boston. “It’s very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes. It’s one thing to hear about various aircraft’s armament, but to actually see the components go together, it’s very educational.”
The observers watched the MALS-13 ordnance technicians put together GBU-16s, and then traveled to VMA-214 to see the bombs put on an aircraft, where their existence would end once the pilot’s acquired their target.
“It’s a lot more complex than taking bombs out of a box,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph Walsh, the MALS-13 munitions support supervisor. “There’s a lot of work and a lot of man hours.”
MALS-13 ordnance technicians can come into work before sunrise and often leave after sunset; their schedules are dictated by squadron operations and how much ordnance they want to drop, which, according to Walsh, can be anywhere from “2 to 40 bombs a day.”
MALS-13’s ordnance arsenal includes active and inert bombs used for training purposes in order to qualify the pilots to drop ordnance. The technicians see their work being put to use during combat operations, where ordnance saves, and ends, lives.
“I wake up every day knowing what I’ve done has made a difference,” said Walsh. “When you need that airstrike, the feeling comes with building the bomb and seeing it work as advertised.”
The abilities of MALS-13 ordnance technicians also mean they are often called on for deployments, and are thus away from their families for longer stretches of time.
“It makes it more personal,” said Keaney, who, with the others, listened as Walsh related stories from his ordnance deployments, some lasting for more than a year, others lasting for a few months. “It’s one thing to be in the shop reading about these various weapons. To learn how they work . . . I think it will change how I view my job.”
After the Marines followed the bomb to its end point, the underside of a Harrier, they each returned to their respective section, wiser in how aviation operations impact the Corps’ Ground Combat Element.