MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
A small group of Marines aboard the air station use science and specialized equipment to provide all aviation units here a nearly limitless supply of liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen.
Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14’s cryogenics technicians obtain, purify and distribute the two elements which are used in a variety of ways on all 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing aircraft.
Cryogenics technicians use a large machine called an oxygen/nitrogen generating plant that isolates the two useful gasses from the air we breathe and chills them to their liquid form. The Marines use this machine to fill multiple 400-gallon tanks for storage and distribution to Cherry Point aviation squadrons.
Oxygen is used to supply aircraft with breathable air for pilots, crewmembers and passengers. Nitrogen is used in multiple areas of aircraft including the canopy, tires, struts and even pressurized missile tubes, said Cpl. Jheremie K. White, a cryogenics technician.
When transferred from the cryogenics storage area to Cherry Point squadrons, they remain in liquid state; however, units use them in their gaseous state. White said technicians can store 800 times the amount of the resources in liquid form than gas.
In liquid form, oxygen is -297 degrees Fahrenheit and nitrogen is -321 degrees Fahrenheit. Cryogenics Marines wear protective clothing and equipment to help keep the liquid from coming into contact with their skin and stay warm while working with the extreme cold of the elements.
“This job takes a lot of patience and dedicated time,” said Hernandez. “Without the proper protective equipment, these natural gases in their liquid state can cause instant frostbite and even loss of body parts.”
These Marines take their job extremely seriously, pushing for perfection every time they fill a tank.
“At one time, there are nine units who will use two of our 50-gallon oxygen tanks each,” said White. “We have only 20 of these tanks, so ensuring the mission accomplishment of these units depends on our concentration and persistence to maintain a professional and efficient shop.”
“These gases are critical to all aspects of flight for the aircraft,” said Sgt. Brandon T. Busby, an egress mechanic with Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1. “If we had to do everything cryo does on top of our jobs here at the aviation squadrons, there would be a lot less time to do preventive maintenance and other things.”