CAMP LEATHERNECK, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — The Fleet Marine Force qualification, a military badge earned by sailors assigned to U.S. Marine Corps commands, is a source of pride for many in the Navy, a testament to experience, to time spent on the Navy’s “green side” – serving alongside U.S. Marines.
More than 50 sailors attached to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in Afghanistan now proudly wear the silver device on their chest, a distinction earned during their deployment.
“It means a great deal, it’s an honor to be able to wear this every day,” said Seaman Chase Lapradd, a corpsman attached to 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), and a native of Drakes Branch, Va., who was presented his qualification badge during a ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Feb. 16.
The Fleet Marine Force qualification is issued to sailors who are trained and qualified to perform duties in support of U.S. Marine Corps operations, and can only be issued by Marine commanding generals or commanding officers of regimental-level commands.
Unlike many sailors who earn the Fleet Marine Force qualification, Lapradd’s service with Marines wasn’t part of a two or three year tour. The Drakes Branch, Va., native served temporarily with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) – augmenting specifically to deploy to Afghanistan.
“It’s something I really wanted to do,” said Lapradd, an augment to the Wing from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Va., “Coming from a Naval command, this isn’t something I could do until I was attached to the Marines.”
During his time in Afghanistan, Lapradd worked for the Wing’s surgeon office, coordinated medical evacuations, provided medical support for coalition forces at the combined aid station, and provided medical coverage for enemy combatants at a detention facility in Helmand province.
Lapradd and the Wing’s other sailors who earned the qualification did so by demonstrating intricate knowledge of Marine Corps combat operations and the history of the Marine Corps.
“It’s a pretty intense program, the qualification process is not easy,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Nathan Whiddon, the senior enlisted sailor with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), and a native of Gray, Ga. “It takes a lot of time and effort, so it shows good initiative and dedication to do something like this, especially on a deployment.”
Since March 2011, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) has served as the aviation combat element in southwestern Afghanistan.
The Wing provides vital functions to coalition forces on the ground, including close air support, troop movement, resupply, cargo delivery and aerial reconnaissance.
It’s a monumental task with tremendous challenges, made possible by the hard work of thousands of dedicated Marines and sailors.
“I’ve really enjoyed myself out here,” Lapradd said. “I’ve learned a ton and gained a lot of valuable experience to take back to my command.”
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