Wednesday, June 3, 2009

HMM-163 (Rein.) “Skid Kidz” provide 13th MEU with Combat Ready Aircraft

Story and Photos by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar

A small group of Marines with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Reinforced), 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, spend most of their days out on the flight deck of USS Boxer (LHD 4) conducting maintenance on AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1Y Hueys, referred to as skids.

These Marines, known as the “Skid Kidz”, are all H-1 flightline mechanics and are constantly repairing and maintaining the skids to keep them prepared for flights at a moment’s notice.

“They are the backbone of the squadron,” said Staff Sgt. Andrew E. Calime, a Chino Hills, Calif. native and AV-8B Harrier powerline division chief, with HMM-163 (Rein.).

Calime says that the skids are a vital part of the 13th MEU’s operations and these flightline Marines are the main reason why the aircraft are able to perform.

Flightline Marines are responsible for cleaning the aircraft and freeing the skids of rust. Their day is full of inspections, both pre-flight and post, as well as repairing and maintaining the aircraft.

“We take pride in our aircraft, when you see the orange rust on it, that’s not good,” said Sgt. Thomas J. Campbell, a Linwood, N.C. native and H-1 flightline mechanic with HMM-163 (Rein.).

Handling every major piece of equipment inside the aircraft, these Marines have no room for error. If they pass over any small discrepancy, it could easily cause an aircraft to malfunction.

Campbell says that pilots perform pre-flight inspections to look over the aircraft and give a second pair of eyes to catch anything that may have been overlooked, but the flightline Marines are the last to look at the aircraft before it flies.
“My favorite part of this job is to be able to take a major piece of equipment, like the engine out, repair it, put it back and watch the bird fly,” said Campbell.

Knowing the importance of their responsibilities, the “Skid Kidz” have day and night shifts that work through harsh weather conditions ranging from high winds to temperatures rising above 100 degrees.

The Marines spend the little time they have off to catch up on college classes and enjoy a couple of laughs.

“We like to have fun, but when it comes down to it, we handle our business,” said Campbell.

The 13th MEU and Boxer Amphibious Ready Group are currently on a deployment in support of regional and Maritime Security Operations (MSO). In addition to HMM-163 (Rein.), the MEU is composed of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1/1 and Combat Logistics Battalion 13.

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