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VMA-223 Marines toil, train under Arizona sun

By Lance Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan | | June 21, 2005

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As the sun beat down on the Marines toiling at the flight line, sweat poured down their faces and, after landing on the scorching hot concrete, instantly evaporated into the Arizona air.

Marines from Marine Attack Squadron-223 worked tirelessly June 21 preparing their AV-8B Harriers for training through the intense dry heat at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., during Exercise Desert Talon.

“The blisters on our hands and arms testify to the heat,” said Cpl. Brady Barnett, an engine mechanic with VMA-223, whose gloves did little to protect from the intense heat of placing a 300-gallon aero-fuel storage tank, which had baked in the sun for days, on a Harrier. “It’s really hot outside, but that is all a part of our mission here, preparing for the heat in Iraq.”

June 21 was the first day this year MCAS Yuma has experienced black flag weather conditions. The black flag indicates a potentially lethal combination of heat, humidity and the core temperature of the earth.

“This dry heat climate is good training,” said Pfc. Kevin Butters, an engine mechanic with VMA-223 who is preparing to deploy to Iraq for the first time. “Everyday, working here in the heat, when different things go wrong you learn new things. I’m constantly learning from all the different Marines around me.”

Butters said the Marines around him have mentored him on different aspects of life in the Corps while training together at Desert Talon.

“From properly dealing with the heat to general knowledge on life, I know I can count on the Marines here,” said Butters. “We came out here to get done what we have to do. It’s a similar situation to the deserts of Iraq and it’s good training. I know I will be better prepared to go after coming out here.”

The training the Marines at VMA-223 receive at Desert Talon focuses on preparing the Harriers to fly, normally between 4 to 8 flights per day. The Marines also must account for the maintenance of the aircraft as well as the different components, including weaponry and sun-baked 300-gallon aero-fuel storage tanks.

“It’s extremely important that we are very precise,” said Gunnery Sgt. Terry “Bud” Weiser, the staff non-commissioned in charge of the engine mechanic’s at VMA-223. “These Marines are extremely motivated and a doing a great job. Correctly placing a 300-gallon aero-fuel storage tanks in this heat is extremely awkward but the Marines are doing it well here, and will do well in Iraq.”

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