ACE staff sergeant speeds up aircraft maintenance process

15 Jun 2007 | Sgt. Eric McLeroy 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

It was one of the hottest days on the ship. The heat of the Arabian Gulf was hot enough to force the Marines to work in t-shirts - their coveralls tied at the waist. A fog of humidity hung inside the metal-framed hangar bay while SSgt. Rosalinda Rodriquez's Marines worked up a sweat inspecting and repairing a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter. It was the twelfth aircraft that the Marines of Phase Maintenance Division, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (reinforced), 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) had pushed through phase - a routine inspection of aircraft. Rodriquez, 25, section staff noncommissioned officer in charge, has reduced the turn around time for aircraft by 25 percent. Normally it takes about eight days for a phase, and now Rodriquez manages to complete each phase properly in less than 6 days. That's a commendable feat in the span of four months considering she works with a crew of five Marines, according to Capt. Andrew Leppert, assistant aircraft maintenance officer. "We let her hand pick her crew of junior Marines, and she has trained them. Her people are very loyal to her and will work the extra hours at night to get the aircraft out of phase and on schedule."She's responsible for planning, supervising and implementing all maintenance requirements for each of the MEU's 12, CH-46E helicopters every time they accumulate 100 hours of flight time. The squadron's phase checks include testing aircraft flight controls and inspecting engines for worn parts. Squadron scheduling oversees the helicopter flight hours so that the MEU will always have aircraft available for potential missions."Our main focus is aircraft availability," Rodriquez said. "We've never missed our goals. If the MEU needs the plane out in four days, we'll work the long days to get it done."Since the Aviation Combat Element joined the MEU nearly 10 months ago, Phase Maintenance has kept their aircraft on schedule and up to operational standards. The credit goes to the Marines who work for her, she said. Her Marines are dedicated to hard work, she said. Having a good crew has made it possible to get the aircraft through their phases on time or ahead of schedule.Rodriquez understands hard work and tough challenges. As a child growing up in Arlington, Texas, she grew up among four brothers and an older sister that toughened her, she said. Later, her competitive spirit led her to basketball, starring on the Sam Houston High School's girls basketball team. Without a scholarship, she couldn't afford college after she graduated from high school. She knew more challenges awaited her in the Marine Corps, and in the summer of 1994, she enlisted. She believed the Marine Corps was the toughest and most rewarding of all the armed forces, and couldn't resist the challenge, she said. According to Rodriquez, she wouldn't settle for anything less. Earning money for college and pushing herself to the limit were challenges that the Marines offered, and she took it. She said, she wanted to test herself, and the Marines offered the best benchmark.She became part of the first wave of female aircraft mechanics to arrive at squadrons throughout the Marine Corps. It was a challenge for everyone, according to Rodriquez. People were getting used to working around females and she was honing her skills. Those experiences and past deployments are helping her now as she trains and guides her Marines."This deployment is easier, because I can understand what the troops are going through. It makes me a better leader, because I've been deployed," she said. She understands her Marines, and they are loyal and dedicated to their mission as a result. After the aircraft come out of phase they remain operational until the next phase inspection. Aircraft can come out of phase and suffer mechanical failures because something was overlooked. That hasn't happened in nearly a year, according to Leppert."We take a lot of pride in what we do," Rodriquez said. "Sometimes we all go to the flight deck to watch the aircraft take off, because we put a lot of hard work and sweat into them."It's Rodriquez's determined attitude that has kept the Phase Maintenance Division ahead of schedule, according to Leppert. This is just one factor that make HMM-268(rein) the finest ACE to deploy from the West Coast, he said.

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