Photo Information

An AV-8B Harrier from Marine Attack Squadron 542 takes off to conduct training sorties out of Marine Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue June 21. Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 provided engineering capabilities, firefighting assets and pure water amongst other services, to ensure MCALF Bogue could successfully support VMA-542.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki

Marines, Sailors endure heat, smoke during MAILED FIST field ops

1 Jul 2011 | Lance Cpl. Scott L. Tomaszycki

Common scenes unfold at Marine Corps installations around the world. Marines stand guard around the perimeter, swatting at flies as they keep an eye out for the enemy. Harrier pilots receive their briefs in a hot, stuffy tent lacking air conditioning, then fly off to support troops on the ground. Convoys come and go, delivering the supplies needed to support the several hundred Marines aboard the outpost. The same scene played out recently on Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue in North Carolina.

Several Cherry Point units conducted field operations at MCALF Bogue June 13–24 as part of exercise MAILED FIST 1-11. Marine Attack Squadron 542 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 set up camp as a forward operating base in an austere environment.

“This is the first time that MWSS-274 has done anything as a squadron since they returned from Afghanistan in October,” said Lt. Col. Scott E. Conway, commanding officer of MWSS-274. “Getting tenant units down here tests our capacity to provide life service support, aircraft firefighting capabilities and test the full range of the 13 functions of aviation ground support that we provide as a squadron. In five days, our people were able to set up a small village that’s capable of providing life support to more than 600 Marines.”

The duties MWSS-274 carried out included providing pure water, manning the field mess, construction capabilities and providing aircraft rescue and firefighting capabilities. All of these abilities would act as a force multiplier in a theater of war.

The tactical water purification system was used to purify water directly from Bogue Sound, a body of brackish water where water from the Atlantic Ocean mixes with fresh water sources. If necessary, the system could filter nuclear, biological and chemical contaminants from the water in case of such an attack.

“We can purify about 1,500 gallons-per-hour for each machine. Our main goal right now is to make sure the water is coming out as pure as possible,” said Cpl. Matthew L. Cheney, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the water purification system. “Comparing our water to city water, Havelock and New Bern run their water at 1,000 total dissolved solids in parts-per-million. We run ours at about eight times cleaner than city drinking water. The real uses of this are endless.”

The water purifier was capable of providing not just drinking water, but also water for daily laundry, miscellaneous use and field mess. The field mess is a force multiplier as well because it not only provides food in bulk, but also in quality. According to Conway, the cooks provide great food which in turn increases motivation.

“Food is a morale factor, everyone revolves around breakfast and evening chow,” said Staff Sgt. Shawn Fitzpatrick, a cook for MWSS-274. “Food is what keeps everyone going, and everyone has to eat. We season everything, we cook it to the right temperature, and we all test it before anyone else eats. If it doesn’t taste good to us, it won’t taste good to anyone else, and that food doesn’t make it to the serving line.”

Another function of MWSS-274 was providing protection against fires. With millions of dollars in equipment and hundreds of lives at risk, a force has to be available to prevent fire from destroying it all.

“Our job is to protect the lives of the pilots and crewmembers flying out of the forward operating base,” said Gunnery Sgt. Raymond Secoy, the staff non commissioned officer in charge of the aircraft rescue and firefighting crew. “When we’re deployed, we’re dual qualified to put out structural fires as well. We’ll run the fire prevention program, do fire inspections and make sure everything is safe.”

Because MWSS-274 creates survivable conditions aboard forward operating bases, attack squadrons can operate from those bases and carry out their missions. VMA-542 deployed to MCALF Bogue with full training capabilities and supported American forces in training scenarios related to MAILED FIST, which would not have been possible without MWSS-274.

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point