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Marine’s keen attention to detail saves lives

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Those familiar with how wars are fought understand the importance of air superiority; without control of the skies, everything becomes more challenging.

Catching the minor issues before they become serious problems is a must because maintaining the machines that soar through the air is an important part of combat.

That is something Sgt. Vernon Kiester does well, having recently discovered a problem that could have caused some serious damage to one of his squadron’s aircraft.

“I was climbing up on top of the UH-1Y Huey to inspect it as there was another Huey about two helos down taxiing by,” said Kiester, a helicopter mechanic with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469. “At the end of the blade there is a shear restraint, all four blades have one, it allows the blade to pivot, and it takes a good portion of the flexing. I noticed the whole shear restraint was bouncing up and down.”

“I hadn’t seen that before and it didn’t seem right,” added Kiester, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. “I went and looked into it a little further, and it ended up being the actual shear restraint had sheered and was just bouncing around.”

Had the helicopter taken off with a component failure of that magnitude, the loss of aircrew and/or aircraft may have been possible.

Kiester, a Highland, Mich., native, has been a Marine for seven years and throughout his time as a helicopter mechanic has seen a variety of mechanical issues.

“We had a helo out at a (forward operating base). We have a guy out there who troubleshoots and he said a bolt was spinning,” said Kiester, 25. “I went out there and found a decent sized crack in the actual support case the transmission sits on.”

Kiester has consistently demonstrated why he holds his current billet and level of certification.

“I am a collateral duty quality assurance representative, it’s basically the highest qualification you can reach in our shop,” said Kiester. “We are basically supervisors over everything involving maintenance.”

Working on the flight line is the perfect place for Kiester because he has proven he possesses a firm knowledge of the aircraft under his care.

HMLA-469 is in possession of a Marine who has been praised by his officer-in-charge, Capt. Gregg Safinski, for his “situational awareness, technical knowledge and attention to detail,” all of which are needed to keep the helicopters in the sky and flying safe.

Article by Cpl. Anthony Ward Jr, Regional Command Southwest