News: Marine squadron in Afghanistan wins Pentagon’s top maintenance award
Story by Cpl. Brian Adam Jones
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Just days into their second deployment to Afghanistan in two years, the Marines of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1, an EA-6B Prowler squadron deployed from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., learned they received the Pentagon’s top maintenance award for their efforts in 2010.
The Secretary of Defense maintenance awards program recognizes outstanding performance by units maintaining military equipment and weapons systems. Six units from across the Department of Defense are recognized annually. One of the six award winners receives top honors as the Phoenix Award winner.
After being recognized in the small unit category, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 was named the Phoenix award winner in a Nov. 18 news release by the Department of Defense.
“It’s unprecedented,” said the squadron’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Chandler Seagraves, a native of New Bern, N.C. “This is the first Marine Prowler squadron to win this award. The Marines have obviously done the work to prove worthy of that.”
The Pentagon’s release cites Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1’s ability to deploy to Afghanistan on short notice and immediately establish self-sufficient support and sustainment.
From the fall of 2009 to May 2010, the squadron deployed to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan as the first Marine electronic warfare squadron in Afghanistan in nearly a decade, Seagraves said.
“I think we deserve it, these guys work very hard,” said Staff Sgt. Ki Kimball, a native of Ludington, Minn., and a quality assurance representative with the squadron. “It takes years to get where we are now.”
Over the course of their six-month deployment, the squadron flew 590 sorties for 2,293 flight hours, a 340 percent increase over normal operations, completing 99.8 percent of their sorties. The squadron exceeded all previous deployment records, maintaining an 84.9 percent mission-capable rate for its aircraft, and decreasing the normal yearly cost for ordered components by half, from $11 million to $5.8 million, according to the release.
Now that they’re back for another tour, the squadron’s Marines appear ready to continue providing electronic warfare support to the coalition’s counterinsurgency efforts here, and build on the success and recognition that comes with the Phoenix Award.
“It feels great to be back doing our mission,” said Gunnery Sgt. Shaun E. Tate, the squadron’s maintenance control chief and a native of Augusta, Ga. “We set the groundwork and the pace for all Marine Prowlers in Afghanistan, and I think its outstanding that we’re getting recognized for the hard work.”
As a direct asset of U.S. Central Command, Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 supports the entire nation of Afghanistan and all of the coalition forces working to eradicate terror and violence from the region.
“We rack up a lot of flight hours quickly,” Seagraves said. “The faster you rack up those flight hours, the more maintenance the Marines have to do.”
“The tempo of our operations here will be the greatest challenge,” Kimball concurred. “We have a bunch of new guys who have never been to Afghanistan and we’re flying much more flights than what they’re used to.”
“Our goal out here is 100 percent mission completion,” said Tate, “to provide ready, mission-capable aircraft to match the flight schedule.”
Kimball said the squadron’s success in that mission is owed to the training that the younger Marines receive, training that all of the squadron’s Marines completed, and that strict adherence to maintenance procedures is nothing new at Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1.