IE SHIMA, Okinawa - Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, also known as the “Sumos,” presented Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, also known as the “Firebirds,” with a plaque of appreciation Oct. 28 at the Ie Shima Training Facility in appreciation for their work maintaining a coral runway at the training area.
MWSS-172 Marines and Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, Naval Construction Group One, completed approximately four weeks of repairs and reconditioning of the runway earlier this month, returning the facility to fully-operational status after sustaining routine damage over years of training use and exposure to the elements.
Lt. Col. Jason W. Julian, the commanding officer of VMGR-152, presented a plaque of appreciation to Lt. Col. Nick Brown, the commanding officer of MWSS-172 as a thank-you for all the hard work the Marines and Seabees put into the project.
Both units are with Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.
“I’ve been watching how much they’ve been working on this and how much they’ve invested, and it’s been really impressive,” said Julian. “This has been one of their biggest projects. We are the only ones using that runway, so we know that it is for (us). We appreciate that and we want them to know it.”
VMGR-152 flew the Marines and sailors who made the repairs to Ie Shima aboard a KC-130J Hercules transport aircraft to show the squadron’s appreciation.
The aircraft landed at the newly reopened runway. The Marines disembarked for an informal plaque presentation ceremony, as well as performing several touch-and-go landings, the first landings since the runway was refitted.
“It was incredible,” said Sgt. Patrick G. Tosetti, a heavy-equipment operator and a project supervisor for the runway with MWSS-172. “It was nice for all the Marines who worked hard on the project to actually get out here and land on something they (repaired).”
The Seabees provided their unique expeditionary expertise while instructing the Marines in methods to strip and resurface the coral of the runway.
“The runway is compacted soil with a top layer of crushed coral,” said 1st Lt. Justin Y. King, the commanding officer of Engineering Operations Company, MWSS-172. “With water and compaction, it becomes a smooth surface – it’s not the same as asphalt. Coral is just an easily-accessible, natural material in this area, and if there’s any run off, it won’t have any negative effects on the environment.”
Brown knows his Marines and the Seabees worked tirelessly during the reconstruction, and they should be proud of their accomplishment.
“Every Marine in the squadron takes a lot of pride in the work that they do to keep Marine aviation expeditionary,” said Brown. “The countless hours they spent working on the runway has paid off. They are keeping Marines and aircraft safe and capable to deploy anywhere in the Pacific.”