Photos by Cpl. Robert C. Medina
USS Boxer, At sea— 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Aviation Combat Element is conducting an agricultural wash down aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4) July 11-14 before entering the United States.
While USS Boxer and the MEU conducted their wash down in the Middle East after their last land-based exercise, the ACE continued flight operations.
Now, on the transit home, Marines with the ACE, or Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 163 (Reinforced), spend the daylight hours on the flight deck washing their aircraft.
“The purpose is to get all the foreign dirt off the aircraft before we return to the United States,” said Cpl. Ryan Keene, a Chicago native and UH-1Y Huey helicopter mechanic, HMM-163 (Rein.), 13th MEU.
Lieutenant Col. Brett M. Bartholomaus, HMM-163 (Rein.) commanding officer and Clarion, Iowa native, says that Marines are required to clean the outside of the aircraft and remove all panels. This gives a more detailed cleaning to the engine, transmission and underneath the floorboards to ensure no dirt remains from previous operations.
“Some Marines have never done this before, so it is a good learning experience for them,” said Bartholomaus. “It is also motivating for the Marines because they know that as soon as we get done we will hit Hawaii and then we’re home.”
The wash down is not fun, but having everyone up on the flight deck makes the days go by faster, says Keene.
The 13th MEU/Boxer Amphibious Ready Group are in the last stages of their seven-month deployment and are journeying through the Pacific Ocean in route home.