ABOARD USS PELELIU -- Aircraft maintenance is a major element of a Marine Expeditionary Unit. When Marines and Sailors operating in the Western Pacific or Arabian Gulf cannot repair a damaged aircraft because of structural damaged, a group of civilian aircraft mechanic experts from the Naval Air Pacific Repair Activity are flown in from Okinawa, Japan, to assist in the job.
During the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s Western Pacific deployment, NAPRA’s depot level support of aircraft maintenance was crucial to the long and constant flight operations the MEU conducted under the guidance of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet.
Since the Fighting 13th’s deployment last summer, NAPRA technicians have been dispatched to assist the MEU on several occasions to repair structural damages on an AV-8B Harrier, a UH-1N Huey, a CH-53E Super Stallion and two CH-46E Sea Knights.
According to 1st Lt. Lou H. Royer, maintenance material control officer, Marine Medium Helicopter 163 (Reinforced), there are three levels of maintenance when dealing with Marine Corps aircraft, and each level is a specialized level of technical experience with depot level being the highest.
The first level is organizational level, which can be completed by Marine technicians. It deals with inspections and removal and replacement of major aircraft components such as engines, propellers and rotor heads.
The next echelon of maintenance is intermediate level. Marine technicians can also complete intermediate-level tasks. It deals with limited repair of major components.
According to Dennis Helms, NAPRA planner and estimator, the biggest satisfaction he gets from repairing a damaged aircraft is watching it fly back into action.
“We get such a high level of satisfaction because we’re also out here working in the tip of the spear,” said Helms.
According to its website, NAPRA’s has been supporting the Navy and Marine Corps team in operations and conflicts since the mid 50’s, including Vietnam and the Gulf wars. Its current personnel located in Atsugi, Okinawa, Korea, Australia, and Singapore continue to provide essential aviation depot level repair services to the Fleet from the Northern Pacific to Antarctica, from Hawaii to the Persian Gulf, and in Europe.
“These guys are true professionals,” said Royer. “The jobs they perform are indispensable. We could not continue to do our mission without their support.”
For more information on NAPRA, visit www.napra.navy.mil.