Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Combat Cargo Marine

Story and Photos by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

The only noises coming through the thick, camouflage painted door was the feint laughter of Marines singing the chorus to “Yellow Submarine.” Through that door is the Flight Deck Debark office where Sgt. Derrick S. Thompson and his seven-man Combat Cargo team reminisce on their morning wake-up call.

Thompson, a parachute rigger with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), is also one of the three team leaders with USS Boxer’s (LHD 4) Combat Cargo flight deck platoon.

It is 7:00 a.m. and Thompson, a Rialto, Calif. native, walks around Combat Cargo’s berthing to wake every Marine with the song, “Yellow Submarine.” After the Marines are awake, showered and moving, they begin morning clean-up.

TIME 7:45 a.m.
After clean-up and berthing inspection, Thompson receives a call with a change of flight-quarter hours. His team is the working flight deck unit for the day. After the call, the team heads toward the office to prepare their float-coats and cranials for the rest of the day’s operations.

TIME 8:00 a.m.
Flight-quarters called over the Public Address System (called the 1MC) signals the Marines to the flight deck for a Foreign Object Debris (FOD) walk-down, which is comprised of Marines and sailors walking the entire flight deck picking up any tools, trash or other objects on the ground that could cause damage to machinery.
“FOD walk-down is a boring, painstaking evolution, but it is necessary because it prevents costly damage to the aircraft,” said a Sebring, Fla. native Cpl. Michael L. McKenna, a member of Combat Cargo and a CH-46E crew chief with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Reinforced), 13th MEU.

TIME 9:00 a.m.
After conducting the FOD walk down, Thompson and his Marines are able to take turns, two at a time, going down to the mess decks to enjoy breakfast before returning to the office for a long day at work.

TIME 9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Their work consists of two major parts, embarking and debarking all gear and personnel being transported by helicopter.

Combat Cargo Marines help unload mail and gear by hand or, if lucky, fork-lifts. They also make a log of each person who comes aboard to file with the ship’s records.

When mail or gear flies out, they pack the helicopters with any items that need to be loaded. When personnel fly out, Marines equip the debarking persons with float coats and cranials, which are safety requirements for any person entering the flight deck. They line the debarking persons on the ramp and when they receive the green light, two members of the team lead them out to their designated helicopter.

“My favorite part of being on Combat Cargo is being able to see what comes on and goes off the ship,” says Lance Cpl. Josbie M. Morris, a Jacksonville, Fla. native and a member of the Combat Cargo team and an aviation electronics technician with HMM-163 (Rein.), 13th MEU.

Thompson’s team has gotten very close. They have been working together for just over six months now and they have learned how to manage their time and know what is expected of them.

“Our team is like one big family and the other flight deck teams are like cousins to us,” said Thompson.

TIME 12:00 p.m.
During a short break from working, Thompson allows his Marines to eat lunch, two at a time, while other Marines pick up the slack.

TIME 1:00 p.m.
After lunch, the Marines continue working until the operation tempo dies down. They break down into groups of two or three to stay in the office in case they are needed. The groups switch out every two hours until flight-quarters end often late into the night. Only then are they able to lock up the office and have the rest of the day to themselves.

When the day is done and the team ‘hits the rack’, they get up again the next morning and start over.

“Being on Combat Cargo has shown me a different aspect of a MEU deployment and it gives me something to do everyday,” says Thompson. “It gives me a sense of accomplishment since we are the working crew who bring the food and mail aboard, bringing joy to awaiting Marines and sailors.”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the informative updates and pics!