|Providing Prowler Support from the Sands of Southwest Asia|
Providing Prowler Support from the Sands of Southwest Asia
By Chief Journalist (SW) Douglas H. Stutz, Joint Task Force Southwest Asia Public Affairs.
Southwest Asia -- (NNS) November 15, 2002 -- The desert sun of the Arabian Peninsula has a tendency to shine bright, high and hot over the yardarm most days. Yet the personnel of the forward-deployed Expeditionary Logistics Unit (ELU) 2 know that professionally, they got it made in the shade.
An EA-6B "Prowler" from the "Rooks" of Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron One Three Seven (VAQ-137) circles USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) for its final approach. The "Rooks" are part of Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) deployed on the nuclear aircraft carrier in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Dave Adams
Although hundreds of miles from the nearest body of water, the approximately 60 personnel of ELU-2 are literally as ship shape in the sun-baked sand as any forward-deployed force could hope.
To a man, members of ELU-2 will state that their mission is crucial. They provide sustained intermediate level maintenance and logistical support to Expeditionary EA-6B Prowler squadrons. That support allows them to carry out the vital aerial electronic warfare protection needed for coalition aircraft conducting missions in support of Operation Southern Watch (OSW).
"Our troops have the ability to see their hard work translated into an airborne combat asset," said ELU-2 unit commander, Lt. Cmdr. Charles G. Murphy, from the Spokane, Wash., area. "Seeing that final product able to conduct the mission is very gratifying for our Sailors. The Prowler is our premier platform for enemy suppression and OSW can’t do any missions without them."
"All of our troops know that all the jobs they do out here are necessary and essential to every mission," echoed Master Chief Avionics Technician (AW/SW) Anthony Glavick. "Our troops are proud to provide the finest support available. We are all very aware that every time the Prowlers fly in support of OSW missions, they will most likely be shot at. They carry out their responsibilities with a fine-tuned sense of dedication and determination."
The Sailors of ELU-2, who find themselves and their particular branch of the service numbering only a handful amongst the Air Force and Army, and even British peers, don’t mind being part of the "waterless Navy." They have heard most of the good-natured quips that come their way.
"Although we miss sailing the world’s oceans, life and working conditions are pretty good here in the desert," Glavick noted.
But on the far side of ELU-2’s makeshift Navy pier in the desert are highly functional, rapidly deployable, state-of-the-art mobile maintenance facility vans. The vans house ELU-2’s nine divisions of gear, equipment and supplies.
The van concept originated six years ago as a viable method to provide intermediate level maintenance support of EA-6B’s operating from many remote land base locations.
Resembling a boxed maze complex from the outside, stepping inside the connecting linked vans is almost like being within the skin of a ship.
Besides being able to ensure the vans are air conditioned and operational, the spaces are stringently kept as dust and debris free as possible. That’s not an easy task when the outside temperature can peak well over 120 degrees for weeks at a stretch, along with constant head winds swirling sand and the elements around the far corner of "Dry Dock" Boulevard.
"The elements can be difficult at times," said Murphy. "When the temperatures soar, they can play havoc with our sophisticated avionics equipment, no matter how much we try to keep them cool. We have certain pieces of avionics gear that will shut down if the inside ambient temperature of the vans reach above 68 degrees Fahrenheit. We are always looking for ways to improve on keeping our gear, and our troops, as cool as possible."
A typical six-month deployment for ELU-2 is unique. Not only do they spend half the time supporting OSW, but they also spend the remaining time at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, or Sembach, Germany, in support of Operation Northern Watch.
According to Glavick, another distinctive feature of ELU-2 is that it is truly a prime example of being a mobile expeditionary unit.
"We can be packed up and ready to move in less than four days," Glavick said. "We have a big footprint of responsibility here. However, if need be, we can certainly move and relocate to conduct our support operations anywhere we are needed."
ELU-2 continues to add not just a footnote to the combat readiness of OSW, but an entire chapter by combining professionalism with a commitment to readiness, and about as far from a shoreline as a Sailor could possibly be.