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A Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 John Deere four-wheel loader drops debris into a dump truck at Auxiliary Airfield 6 on the range April 3, 2010. The range is located 7 miles south of Gila Bend, Ariz. Fourteen of the squadron's Marines worked for four days clearing 36,000 square feet of runway in support of the upcoming Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jakob Schulz

Yuma's MWSS-371 clears remote desert airfield

8 Apr 2010 | Lance Cpl. Jakob Schulz

Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 recently finished clearing 36,000 square feet of the overgrown Auxiliary Airfield 6 to prepare for the current Weapons and Tactics Instructor course.

The 14-Marine team, using heavy machinery, cleared plant life and debris from the expeditionary runway, located on the Barry M. Goldwater Range, approximately 7 miles south of Gila Bend, Ariz. The group began clearing the area April 2, 2010, and finished in four days.

“Doing this not only allows our Marines to get training on their equipment, it provides the other squadrons with a less hazardous environment to land on,” said Staff Sgt. Byron Keys, heavy equipment platoon operations chief.

AUX-6 functions as a dirt runway for KC-130J Hercules refuelers and MV-22 Ospreys to practice deploying and picking up Marines in an austere environment.

“AUX-6 is mainly used during WTI,” said Sgt. Brian Schmidlin, squadron foreman. “We were tasked with clearing 10 feet off both sides of the runway so KC-130s can land here safely without worrying about hitting trees.”

This marks the first time the squadron has cleared trees and other plant life from AUX-6.

“Most of the time, AUX-6 takes care of itself,” said Schmidlin. “This year, on the other hand, with all the rain and crazy weather we’ve been getting, the desert is trying to take the airfield back. We’re going to stop it.”

The squadron also cleared an area for an all new 150- by 500-foot refueling station. This new station will allow squadrons participating in WTI to be more effective in their training. 

The refueling station will not include any permanent equipment, said Schmidlin. Squadrons using the area will park refueling trucks on the site as they would in a forward-operating airfield.

“We’re just clearing the area,” said Schmidlin. “MWSS-373 is going to come in later and spray ‘rhino snot’ on the area to harden the ground so it’s useable.”

Envirotac II, or “rhino snot,” is a rubbery, cement-like substance that is applied to loose soil and sand to produce a hard surface.

“The Marines really worked hard and got the project done quickly,” said Keys. “We were originally going to be out there for a week.”

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