AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
Marines from Marine Attack Squadron - 513 have stayed busy conducting aerial missions in support of the counter-insurgency operations since arriving in Al Anbar Province with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The “Nightmares” joined up with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron - 163 (Reinforced) and deployed on a Western Pacific deployment in early April as part of the 13th MEU.
After arriving in theater in June, the “Nightmares” detachment, made up of roughly 85 Marines from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, was met by VMA-231 of MCAS Cherry Point, N.C. The “Ace of Spades” have been here since March and welcomed VMA-513 Marines with open arms.
“When we arrived, it was good to see (VMA) 231 out here, working hard keeping their birds in the air,” said Lance Cpl. Adam Horn, AV-8B Harrier airframe mechanic. “Combined with our birds, it has made more jets available for whatever mission may come.”
The “birds” are the lethal AV-8B Harrier jets, the only fixed winged aircraft in the Corps that make up a reinforced helicopter squadron and a very valuable asset to an already stacked arsenal of aircraft.
The mechanics work twelve hours on, twelve hours off, seven days a week, performing constant maintenance on the jets that support missions and operations for the MEU and Multi-National Force-West. Pilots are flying more than twice as much as they would be during training back in garrison.
“From integrating with (VMA) 231 to getting and keeping the birds operationally ready, the Marines have done a great job,” said Capt. Keith Bucklew, training officer with the VMA-513 detachment.
The squadrons’ combined 15 aircraft have accumulated over 545 flight hours and 671 sorties in roughly 30 days. The Harrier missions include convoy escorts and looking for improvised explosive devices. However, the main mission for the Harriers has been non-traditional reconnaissance, which is a vital tool in support of Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines operations. They become the eyes in the sky, seeking out suspicious activities, which enables Marines on the ground to gain awareness on the battlefield.
The Marines of VMA-513 know just how important their efforts are in support of current operations. With the recent news of a thirty-day extension, the Marines are certain to continue their top-notch performance, keeping their birds operationally cued for any mission.