RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility hosted a few unusual guests this fall when 14 Marines from the Cherry Point, North Carolina-based Marine Attack Squadron 223 descended upon the hangar to replace the engine of an AV-8B Harrier jet. Significant foreign object damage to the jet’s engine was found following a flyover at Arlington National Cemetery Sept. 25, 2020, and was discovered by the pilot during routine pre-flight checks at Richmond International Airport. The pilot took a few pictures of the damage and set it back to the maintainers at Cherry Point.
“We saw something metal down the intake,” said Gunnery Sgt. Adam Reid, the lead engine mechanic for the squadron. “We knew right way it wasn’t repairable, we were going to have to change to a whole new engine.”
Right away, Reid went to work at Cherry Point and started putting together a team to make the trip north. In Virginia, the operations staff at the airport reached out to the AASF to connect the Marines with the Virginia National Guard in the hopes they could provide space for the engine repair.
Staff Sgt. Chad Chapman, a Virginia Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk mechanic who works at the facility full time, connected with the Harrier pilot and the Marine maintainers and, together with Capt. Charles Byrd, the logistics management officer at the AASF, worked to assist the Marines, “making sure they had occupied space and everything to work out of and to provide them with the equipment available to make their mission possible.”
While it’s unusual to have an inorganic airframe in the hangar, Chapman said the facility is equipped to help out sister services should the need arise.
“This is something that’s not common, but we are an AASF, so we support any branch of military with any means we have available,” Chapman said.
One the Marines connected with the AASF, the jet was defueled and towed across the airport to the hangar at the AASF.
“They were nothing but helpful,” Reid said of the National Guard Soldiers who opened their doors to the Marines. “They jumped through hoops to get it in here for us.”
Reid said special coordination had to be made to get a crane into the hangar as Harrier engines weigh significantly more than those found in Black Hawks. Tools and various pieces of equipment were hauled up from Cherry Point in a handful of shipments and the Marines quickly went to work on removing the damaged engine and attacking additional issues they found along the way.
“I think it’s really nice that we’re able to support all [Department of Defense] units and work as one team to accomplish the mission,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jonathan Sigl, the AASF’s production control officer. “We even have guys who work at this facility that used to be in this Marine Corps unit. It’s very exciting to see everyone interact and learn from one another and I think the guys feel good that they’re able to help.”
Over the course of a week, the Marines worked to replace and repair the jet’s engines.
“It’s been great,” Reid said. “The Army’s been super helpful, the airfield has been extremely helpful and we’ve been able to get everything we need.”