HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Flying over southwestern Afghanistan, a voice came over the radio, drawing the crew chiefs’ attention to a large truck and SUVs racing through the desert. Marines with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, “Vengeance,” were performing aerial reconnaissance in the area, looking for any suspicious vehicles or potential insurgent activity.
Binghamton, N.Y., native, Lance Cpl. Seamus Clarke, is on his first deployment, much like his squadron, but he is well prepared for combat.
“My brother’s a Marine, my family was all in the Marine Corps, so it’s kind of a tradition,” said Clarke. “I joined the Marine Corps because ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been taught that you need to serve your country before you can go on and do your own thing in life.”
With a Celtic tattoo, bushy mustache and a name like “Seamus,” Clarke puts the “fighting Irish” into his combat tour.
Staff Sgt. Robert Wise, also a crew chief with the squadron and Daytona Beach, Fla., native, personally chose Clarke to be his fellow crewman when he flies combat operations.
“I’m the aircrew training manager for the squadron, so I paired up all the combat crews for our unit,” said Wise. “I felt like he had a lot of potential … He’s advanced quite a lot in the short time we’ve been out here.”
Clarke explained that light attack helicopter squadrons, stocked with UH-1Y Hueys and AH-1W Super Cobras, have a unique advantage in their ability to deliver heavy firepower and maintain a 360-view of the battle space.
These traits make light attack helicopter crews ideally suited for close-air-support of Marines on the ground, as well as their larger helicopter and tiltrotor counterparts, CH-53D Sea Stallions, CH-53E Super Stallions and MV-22B Ospreys.
“Any sort of mission, [my worry is] always who’s going to be the one to try and engage me, and shoot at me,” said Clarke. “I trust the other crew chief on the other side of the aircraft to watch his side and it’s up to me to watch my side and make sure we don’t end up in a sticky situation.”
Clarke first got the inspiration to become a crew chief when an old friend, a Vietnam veteran and former Huey crew chief himself, suggested the job.
“He said it was the best job he’s ever done,” explained Clarke. “I went to the recruiter to see if they had any openings and they did, so I picked this job. It’s been the best time of my life so far.”
Clarke and Wise took notes on the suspicious vehicles to report to their squadron’s intelligence section, and completed the flight without incident.
A perennial New York Yankees fan, Clarke said he looks forward to seeing baseball season again, and perhaps one day being a crew chief instructor himself.
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This work, Fighting Irish: deployed crew chief fulfills dream, by Lisa Tourtelot, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.