We have heard so much lately about poor readiness across America’s air arms , but the USMC, in particular, has left some of its most essential aircraft communities in especially dire straits . The service’s worked over F/A-18 Hornet fleet is one of them. Over the last ten years, it has become all too common to see Marine tactical air squadrons with rows of planes sitting in pieces on the apron, their key components having been cannibalized to help healthier jets limp back into the air. Maintainers have even had to scrounge through the boneyard and even museums looking for impossible to find parts. And all of this negatively impacts a unit’s ability to stay current on critical skills, not to mention morale and personnel retention.
But through it all, some of the hardest working people anywhere have powered on and pulled endless metaphorical rabbits out of hats to keep their jets flying and their pilots as ready for combat as they possibly can. These are the maintenance people, the unsung heroes that may never even get to fly in the very jets that they spend countless hours and years of their lives servicing at home and in faraway lands. One of these talented Marines agreed to talk with The War Zone about their past experiences in the thick of the USMC’s aviation readiness meltdown, and about what it takes to keep beaten-down F/A-18 Hornets in the air. The Marine, who wanted no fanfare or congratulations for this article, requested to remain anonymous and gave a frank, honest and selfless account of his experiences. Quite frankly, his words are a testament to all of the ‘little guys’ who do the less glamorous but absolutely necessary jobs in America’s military machine. Like so many young enlisted personnel, he just wanted to serve his country, but he never thought he would end up tearing apart broken $30M strike fighters and putting them back together again as an occupation. Keeping the USMC’s rickety Hornet fleet flying
From when I first started working on hornets to when I wrapped up my enlistment I saw the readiness and availability worsen and worsen. The F/A-18 is obviously an older platform so stuff would break with pretty decent frequency. The pilot would write up the discrepancy and we would begin to troubleshoot the issue. But a lot of times we would be hamstrung because there would only be one set of test equipment on the entire base that was needed and we would have to ask to borrow it from another squadron. If the other squadron needed it or was using it we were shit out of luck. There would be instances when we would be given a deadline to return the test equipment without even having fully completed the troubleshooting process because the unit we borrowed it from needed it back. Getting parts was another nightmare. There were many times where we would order parts and they would take almost a week to get or we […]