MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. --
They are the men and women behind the scenes who support Harriers. Each explosive dropped, each round fired carries with it their name: they are Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 ordnance.
MALS-13 is composed of dozens of work sections; however, few are as proud as these bomb builders, but with good reason.
Each day the Marines on the ground and in the air put their lives on the line and it is the duty of MALS-13 ordnance to make sure Marine Aircraft Group 13 aircrew get the fire power support they need, said Staff Sgt. Danny Rangel, MALS-13 munitions noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
“The bombs must go off when needed because there are American lives on the line,” added the Placentia, Calif., native.
The mission of MALS-13 is to provide support of the MAG-13 aircraft squadrons in all aspects of armament, said Capt. Billy DuBose, the MALS-13 ordnance officer-in-charge.
DuBose was referring to MALS-13’s wide range of ordnance duties, from building the bombs themselves to maintaining the carriers used to transport them.
The Black Widow’s ordnance department is separated into five sections: rack shop, gun shop, armament weapons support equipment, munitions and the ammunition stock and recording section.
The rack shop tests and repairs the bomb racks and missile launchers which hold bombs and missiles used by Harriers.
One such analysis tests the electrical current resistance of the racks. The test ensures the bomb rack will release the munitions when needed.
Rack shop Marines must also ensure each bomb the squadrons request has the proper racks to carry the bombs.
Neighboring the rack shop, are MALS-13’s gun shop Marines, or as they prefered to be called, the ‘gun gods.’
The gun shop is composed of Marines who fix and repair all gun and ammo packs for MAG-13 aircraft, said Sgt. Sean Obrien, MALS-13 gun shop assistant NCOIC and native of Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Gun shop Marines are essentially armorers, but for Harriers, he said.
Obrien and his Marines spend hours a day maintaining the Harrier’s five-barreled 25mm Gatlin gun and teasing the rack shop Marines about who has the better job.
However, they are not the only sections to debate over who is the best in ordnance.
The armament weapons support equipment and munitions sections also love to jump in the fray.
Every time ordnance needs to be moved, AWSE jumps into action.
The ‘junk shop,’ as they are affectionately called, provide the cradles for bombs and missiles, the transportation trailers to move the cradles and several other pieces of specialized equipment required to transport ordnance, said Sgt. Aaron Copeland, the collateral duty inspector for junk shop and native of Yakima, Wash.
There are more than 1300 different pieces of equipment junk shop Marines must use and maintain, he added. It definitely has its challenges.
Across the building from the junk shop and adjacent to the other sections is the ‘bread and butter’ of ordnance, as Rangel put’s it.
These are the Marine who go to the station bomb dump each day and build the bombs the squadrons have requested, said Rangel. They are the Marines whose work has been responsible for saving countless Marine and Iraqi lives.
Munitions Marines also prepare special purpose rockets, such as heat-seeking missiles, required for training and missions, he added.
Munitions, however, is not where ordnance ends.
Beyond gun, rack, junk and munitions, there lies another section. A section full of stress and paperwork, full of responsibility and full of the word, no.
It is the ammunition stock and recording section and it is where Staff Sgt. Geoffrey Barisano works.
Barisano said ASRS is responsible for keeping track of every component that has to do with explosives.
ASRS goes beyond the MALS, he said. It is responsible for all MAG-13’s ordnance and ordnance related items.
Each fiscal year, the wing issues a set number of ordnance items to MAG-13 and it is the job of ASRS to disseminate the equipment throughout the year to the squadrons, said Barisano.
Basically, ASRS must create a year long budget of the ordnance to ensure each squadron has what they need to conduct training and missions.
They also requisition the munitions needed for deployments.
There is far more to ordnance than explosives, said Rangel. And although each section debates on who is the most important, the Marines know that it is a team effort.
The fact is, every Marine here is an ordnance Marine, said Rangel. Each one can cross over to other sections if they need to.
“Just like as every Marine is a rifleman, every ordnance Marine is a bomb builder,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Sean Jevning, MALS-13 ordnance department chief and native of Austin, Texas.
MALS-13 is a great section and what makes it so effective is the Marines ability to work together, said DuBose.