MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. -- “Without us, there would be no fight!”
It sounds a little dramatic. To some it may even seem a little conceited.
But the truth is: they’re right.
“The Harrier’s mission is to attack and destroy targets,” said Capt. Billy
A. Dubose, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 ordnance officer in
charge, as he sat in his office. “Without aviation ordnance there would be
no destroying! Marine aviation would just be reconnaissance. No war is
won by air only, but you do need air superiority.”
Building bombs and maintaining the jets’ weapons systems are only the
tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many roles of the ordnance field.
“The mission is to provide all the aircraft squadrons with armament
systems, supply equipment that transports the systems and non-combat
expenditure allocation so that they can maintain pilot efficiency and support
any type of contingency,” said Dubose, the sounds of metal clanging
and drills whirling drifting through the open door from the wide, spacious
work area where the delicate dance that is ordnance maintenance was
Basically these Marines load, maintain, supply and build bombs, said
Master Gunnery Sgt. Sean Jevning, MALS-13 ordnance staff noncommissioned
officer-in-charge, sitting across from Dubose, literally and
figuratively his right-hand man.
“We are the only completely self-sustained department in a MALS (unit)
because we do everything on our own,” added Jevning, pointing out that the
dangerous nature of what they maintain makes it necessary for only ordnance-
trained individuals to handle and keep track of their equipment.
“For example,” said Dubose, standing and crossing the room to a map
of the air station posted on the wall with symbols for buildings and streets
as well as several mysterious half-circles. “If we were at a (forward operating
base) site, no non-essential personnel could be inside these arcs. The
regular MALS Marines would be just outside this area in order to minimize
damage to any equipment or Marines.”
Once deployed, in addition to the several jobs ordnance Marines already
perform, they also become a sort of distribution office for all ordnance
in the area, said Dubose, after flipping through a small photo album and
pointing out a picture of himself as an enlisted Marine at a FOB site during
Operation Desert Storm, along with photographs of an ordnance staging
area with several palates of green bombs with yellow tips.
“It’s a lot more than just putting guns on a plane,” Jevning added.
The importance of the job they are tasked with is not lost on any of the
MALS-13 ordnance Marines.
“Being a collateral duty inspector (in this job) is the most scary thing
sometimes,” said Sgt. Sean O’Brien, MALS-13 ordnance technician while
replacing a 25mm dummy round he used to demonstrate the inner-workings
of the GAK-14, a gun system used in the Harrier jet. “These guns kill
people, and if I overlook something, it can cause a lot of damage to theplane and put the pilot in danger.”
In the gun shop, where O’Brien works, Marines are responsible for
maintaining and cleaning the GAK-14, which mounts on the underside
of the Harrier and has five barrels (about four to five feet long) that
connect to a GFK-11 ammunition pack.
“This ammo pack holds 300 rounds,” explained O’Brien, pointing
to the device that resembled the huge connected chain of bullets that
Rambo or Mr. T wore in those tough-guy movies from the 80s; of course
the GFK-11 is much bigger and not slung across anyone’s chest.
“These rounds are not like regular M-16 rounds,” O’Brien continued.
The M-16 rounds hit and then break apart, leaving the fragments to do
the most damage once the bullet impacts. The rounds from the GAK-14
are explosive, meaning they will hit their target and then explode.
“If one of these rounds even went past you, it would rip you in
Another important part of the ordnance team is the least glamorized,
but equally important Airborne Weapons Supply Equipment shop, or
more affectionately referred to as the “junk shop.”
Maintaining the equipment used to transport ordnance may sound like a
boring job, but the Marines who perform it just see it as a part of
the ordnance machine and are just as motivated to do their job as their
bomb building brothers.
“We lead the fight,” said Sgt. John James Jr., MALS-13 ordnance
technician, as he stood framed in the massive doors of the warehouse.
“We get a real sense of fulfillment, especially in a time of war.”
Sgt. Steven Cullen agreed wholeheartedly.
“The happiest time is when a plane goes out loaded with ordnance and
come back without any,” he said with a satisfied look and a smile.
There are many more moving parts to the MALS-13 ordnance team,
and each Marine plays their part to achieve the mission. With the shop
camaraderie and cohesion that is immediately apparent when one sets
foot in the building, it is no wonder that ordnance Marines have the
motto of being “Gun Gods.”