News: Capella Strike: MAG-14 Marines prep Harriers to train aboard ship
Story by Pfc. Tyler J. Bolken
ABOARD THE HMS ARK ROYAL, Atlantic Ocean - More than 150 Marines and Sailors of Marine Aircraft Group 14 are spending nights aboard HMS Ark Royal, the British Royal Navy's flagship aircraft carrier.
The Marines and Sailors began their evolution May 28 to participate in Capella Strike, a multinational training exercise with British counterparts.
The workday aboard HMS Ark Royal begins when a Royal Navy sailor pipes a boatswain's call, a whistle used by the Royal Navy for signaling passing orders. A poster aboard says the method can be traced back to 1248 A.D.
Prior to boatswain's call, night-crew Marines of MAG-14 ensure all preparations are made for the next day's fl ight schedule by first and foremost focusing on the positioning of the 12 AV-8B Harriers aboard the ship, a task which is easier said than done.
"Parking space is a bit tight down the back end because we usually only have nine jets (compared to 12)," said Lt. Paul Morris, the flight deck officer for HMS Ark Royal.
Additionally, an ocean-bound ship can tend to restrict aspects of a work environment that may be taken for granted when on land.
"Everything takes a little bit longer," said Cpl. Ian H. Smith, an avionics collateral duty inspector with Marine Attack Squadron 542.
The aircraft are circulated to achieve an accurate performance assessment of each on top of the fact that certain aircraft entities may be required for specifi c fl ights, depending on the mission, explained Capt. Michael M.V. Park, a Harrier Pilot with VMA-542.
HMS Ark Royal has two interior aircraft lifts, which are basically enormous elevators for bringing aircraft two levels beneath the flight deck to the hangar within the ship's interior for maintenance or storage.
Royal Navy Sailors and Marines work hand in hand each night, using the lifts for the aircraft placements.
Smith said the British Sailors are very helpful, and the Marines haven't come across any signifi cant technical issues because the British have Harriers as well.
Once all aircraft movement is completed, priority moves to maintenance and the Harriers' exposure to the Atlantic comes into play.
"There are static probes on the Harrier, and they get green corrosion from the sea salt," said Lance Cpl. Anthony J. O'Neal, an avionics technician with VMA-542. "It's like the statue of liberty."
The nightly mission as a whole is to have as many fully functioning aircraft as possible for the next day, explained Cpl. Timothy S. Bordner, an avionics electrician with VMA-542.
To sum it up, Naval Airman Jack R. Marriott, an aircraft handler aboard the HMS Ark Royal said, "There isn't much to add. It's pretty basic, and we work well together."