News: CH-53D crewmen earn combat aircrew wings
Story by Sgt. Deanne Hurla
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – The tradition of the combat aircrew insignia dates back to 1943 during World War II when the Marine Corps awarded the insignia to aircrew members who satisfactorily participated in aerial combat.
Five Marines from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), earned their insignia Dec. 6, for their roles in combat operations while deployed with the squadron.
Aerial observers Master Sgt. Michael Teegardin, Gunnery Sgt. John Delgado, Sgt. Gary Hackman and Cpl. Oscar Melgar, and crew chief Cpl. Kyle Greer, received their combat aircrew wings from Brig. Gen. Andrew W. O'Donnell Jr., the 3rd MAW (Fwd) commanding general.
“It is a true honor to be able to recognize the Marines in this fashion,” said Lt. Col. Thomas A. Pecina, HMH-362, “Ugly Angel’s” commanding officer. “When I first came in the Marine Corps, the only people who had them were those who were in [Operation] Desert Storm.”
Before the Marines are able to wear the wings on their uniform name patches, they first had to meet the requirements.
They must volunteer and complete the required training for combat aircrew duty, qualify medically and obtain the required number of hours in a Marine aircraft in combat operations. To be part of the flight crew, Marines must either be crew chiefs or aerial observers.
“After my first deployment, I wanted to fly, so I became an AO,” said Hackman, an intelligence analyst with the Ugly Angels. “It’s not usual for an [intelligence] guy like me to do this, it’s usually a maintainer. I feel very blessed for having been able to do it. Going out there and risking everything just to get the [infantry] what they need, makes it all worthwhile.”
Marines must also acquire points according to types and number of flight hours to earn the insignia.
A strike, which delivers ordnance against the enemy, will earn two points. Inserts or extracts of assault personnel or engaging in Search and Rescue operations that encounter enemy opposition are also two points. General support flights, in which no enemy is engaged, are worth one point.
A direct combat support mission is worth 0.4 points. These missions can be reconnaissance, combat air patrol, transportation of personnel and cargo as well as convoy escorts that encounter no enemy opposition.
The combat aircrew wings must be earned while the unit is deployed. It is a prestigious distinguishing device as it is symbolic of Marine aviations deep bond and commitment to supporting the infantry and coalition forces in Afghanistan.