CAMP SINJAR, Iraq --
When the Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 arrived here in the end of October, Camp Sinjar was little more than broken concrete strips covered with mounds of dirt surrounded by sand.
Now, the combat engineers of MWSS-273 have repaired the broken concrete, gotten rid of the piles of dirt, and Sinjar’s runway is days away from being able to support F/A-18 fighter jets.
“We got here 12 days ago and we were able to get our runway up four days early,” said Gunnery Sgt. Delvon M. Survine, Camp Sinjar detachment staff non-commissioned officer, MWSS-273. “My Marines got here at about three in the morning, and have been working hard ever since.”
The airstrip serves as a supply point, staging ground, and suitable runway for the many aircraft that fly in and out of here. The strip is already capable of supporting helicopter and C-130 Hercules traffic.
But this runway wasn’t close to combat capable only a short while ago.
“This runway has gone from a cracked piece of concrete covered with piles of dirt to a combat capable landing zone,” said Capt. Robert S. Bunn, detachment officer-in-charge, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367. “The Marines here have done an excellent job.”
The combat engineers have labored since they arrived in Sinjar to restore the runway’s capability by using heavy equipment bulldozers to move or flatten dirt mounds or hills, and by filling craters, caused by erosion or explosions, with concrete to make the airstrip safe and suitable for the aircraft that will be landing and departing from here.
““Anything that looks like it could be a threat we have to make sure is either gone or smooth and strong enough for the birds to land on,” said Sgt. Steven J. Smith, platoon sergeant, combat engineers, MWSS-273. “If the ground isn’t strong, smooth or clear, a vehicle or aircraft could go down,” said Smith, a 23-year-old from Modesto, Calif.
“If you’re operating on an established runway that has been repaired, it makes it much safer to fly on,” said Bunn, a 29 year old Cobra pilot from Dana Point, Calif.
This runway will be the only Marine-run airstrip in Nineweh province supporting the Marine Air Ground Task Force executing Operation Defeat Al-Qaida in the North II. What makes the runway so important is the support the air combat element will provide to the Marine air-ground team while they interdict foreign fighters and terrorists in western Nineweh.
“The ACE will be helping the MAGTF by providing them with close air support, reconnaissance, and supply transport,” said Survine, 38, from San Francisco, Calif. “This runway will help the Marines of the ground combat element stay in the fight.”