News: Huey crew chief reveals passion for flying
Story by Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. — A UH-1N Huey touches down in a landing zone as a young lance corporal with a confident grin steps out to help embark a Marine.
If you ask the crew or pilots aboard the aircraft about this Marine they will tell you, he is confident both on the ground and in the air.
Lance Cpl. Jay R. Wright is a dual-qualified crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467, where he works on Hueys and Cobras. It is his job to maintain the aircraft and be an extra set of eyes in the helicopter during missions and testing.
Wright, a Wasicca, Alaska, native, stepped on the yellow footprints, Sept. 15, 2008, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif.
“I knew right out of high school I wanted to join the military,” said Wright.”My father was in the Air Force, and I told myself I wanted to join a more rugged branch. I also made it clear that I wanted to be in the air. I wanted to fly, and that was it.”
Wright said his recruiter gave him two options; either go to college and become an officer or enlist as a crew chief. Choosing the latter, Wright completed his military occupational school and arrived at HMLA-467 where his supervisors say he thrived immediately.
“Lance Cpl. Wright is the junior Marine every shop hopes to have,” said Sgt. Stephen M. Salinas, a crew chief with HMLA-467. “Wright has learned so much about both the Hueys and the Cobras. He has qualifications under his name that some corporals do not. Wright could be a sergeant with the amount of weight he carries in both knowledge and leadership abilities.”
Some of Wright’s aerial duties as a crew chief include making sure the rotor blades are free of debris, monitoring gauges, communicating with pilots, and keeping a 360-degree watch around the helicopter. Each morning he goes out with other crew chiefs to conduct fuel sample testing.
A fuel sample test is conducted by looking for any foreign debris or water inside the fuel itself said Wright. If he or another crew chief finds anything of the sort, they have to drain and replace the fuel in order to prevent damaging the engine.
“On the ground, the biggest variable is the weather,” he said. “In the air it is a whole new ball game. So many different things could go wrong, from an engine failing to a dust storm coming upon us. Also, when we are operating the guns there is a possibility of jams and other weapon malfunctions.”
While in flight, Wright said he has to be able to make a quick judgment call and pass to the pilot whether he feels a situation is safe to proceed or if he feels it is unsafe to land.
“In the sky we are an extra set of eyes for the pilots,” said Wright.
The 22-year-old Alaskan said he enjoys what he does and credits his work ethic to the influence and mentorship of Salinas, but said his first taste of Marine Corps motivation about his job field came at boot camp.
“One of my drill instructors was a crew chief, and the best thing he did for me was tell me I would never make it in his job field,” said Wright. “Those words still motivate me today to be the best I can be as a crew chief.”
A few months after Wright arrived at the squadron, he was able to show and test his skills as a crew chief during a six-month deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“On the MEU, Wright spent his off time studying or lifting weights instead of playing video games like some of his peers,” said Salinas. “He is constantly trying to better himself as a person and a Marine.”
“I love flying on these birds.” said Wright.