Marines float to Iwakuni, participate in Pacific Provider 2007[MIGRATE]

By Pfc. Ethan Hoaldridge | March 07, 2007

The SS Curtis pulled into port at U.S. Naval Base Pearl Harbor March 7 to load intermediate aviation maintenance facilities while enroute to Iwakuni, Japan, for the two-month exercise Pacific Provider 2007.

Pacific Provider is an opportunity for the crew, Marines assigned to the ship from the 3rd and 4th Marine Air Wings and merchant marines, to test their support capabilities for maintaining operational fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.

“The capability of pulling into ports in our [area of responsibility] and providing intermediate maintenance for Marine aircraft acts as a force multiplier,” said Lt. Col. Mark B. Pennington, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Aviation Logistics Division plans officer. “Planes don’t have to wait on parts to be shipped overseas for repair when you have the technology and the Marines to fix it in theater.”

“The longer aircraft have to sit and wait for parts or intermediate maintenance, the fewer birds are in the sky,” he said.

The Marines aboard the SS Curtis hold two or more billets to accomplish their mission. There are avionics, hydraulics and air frame Marines onboard who perform a multitude of tasks.

Their responsibilities vary from manning a 50-caliber machine gun to guiding heavy, mobile maintenance facilities on to the ship to providing intermediate aviation maintenance.

“When I joined the Marine Corps, I didn’t even know they had ships of their own,” said Lance Cpl. Ryan Kelly, a load crewman for the SS Curtis. “It’s a unique experience as a Marine and we all work well together. It’s like the load crew has its own rhythm.”

The maintenance crews work with highly technical parts on the aircraft and run tests on the specified equipment inside the mobile maintenance facilities.

Each facility has advanced equipment to run tests on aircraft parts to find the problem or malfunction as fast as possible.

This year, Pacific Provider is expanding the scope of the exercise by sailing to Iwakuni to validate their support of Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration, a coalition forces exercise known as RSO&I.

Pacific Provider gives the troops an opportunity to stretch their sea legs as well. Usually the exercise entails the ship and her crew floating just off the coast of San Diego for two weeks.

While there, the Marines will mainly support F-18 Hornets.

“So it’s been a pretty impressive exercise joining eight different commands together and 112
Marines functioning as one unit,” said Lt. Col. Scott Hallstrom, commander of troops for the SS Curtis.

The SS Curtis and the SS Wright, the other Marine Corps aviation logistics support ship, have both been in theater to help support the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.