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Sgt. Michael Burgess, left, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of fire control at Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303 and a Ramona, Calif. native, poses with his Marines aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 15. Burgess is highlighted as part of the committed and engaged leadership campaign acknowledging his leadership of these seven award-winning Marines.

Photo by Cpl. Melissa Wenger

‘Paying it forward’: HMLAT-303 sergeant molds the future Corps

15 Jul 2013 | Cpl. Melissa Wenger

Few shops in the Marine Corps can boast of the impressive track record held by Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303’s Avionics Fire Control Branch. Their strong presence at the quarterly awards programs displays the proven success of committed and engaged leadership.

Sgt. Michael Burgess, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of fire control at HMLAT-303 and a Ramona, Calif. native, supervises those Marines who have made a clean sweep of the Marine of the Quarter and NCO of the Quarter boards since the final quarter of 2012. He mentored all four Marines of the Quarter for 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, two of whom have progressed to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force level. During the same period, he groomed three Marines who won NCO of the quarter and six who were meritoriously promoted to corporal.

 As the NCOIC of the shop, Burgess makes sure the Marines have enough flexibility and motivation to meet their full potential.

“Other than having a solid battle rhythm … I like to make them competitive against each other,” he said. “I incorporated an avionics crewman of the week award when I first started here and that was really the only title they had to work for and fight for on a weekly basis. We had small leadership challenges where I broke them into two teams each week and a different lance corporal was a team captain ... They would do either physical challenges or mental challenges when it comes to knowing aircraft knowledge and things like that.”

The committed and engaged leadership initiative, a concept birthed by Maj. Gen. Steven W. Busby, 3rd MAW commanding general, describes what Burgess has done with his Marines all along.

“I guess I would say I’m pretty demanding, but I think it works out well because Marines are generally just hungry for a challenge and for competition,” said Burgess. When I give them the opportunity to succeed and they have those challenges, they do pretty well. I think being actively engaged with my Marines is the biggest part of it.”

Burgess’ intent is the same as the commanding general’s: to mold proficient leaders for the future of the Marine Corps. Because Burgess’ 13 years in the Marines Corps includes broken service, he’s not quite “in zone” for selection to staff sergeant. He may approach his service limitations before being selected, but he certainly hasn’t checked out.

“My goal when I got here was to make sure I put as much as I could into these guys because I really didn’t think I’d be here,” Burgess said. “I really wanted to leave some high-quality Marines here and also teach them how they can build fantastic Marines. I think that we’re doing that here for sure.”

One of those Marines, Cpl. Eric Hummitzsch, an avionics technician, 3rd MAW’s second Marine of the Quarter and a Sheboygan, Wis. native, knows exactly what the commanding general is talking about when he says “pay it forward” from his experience with Burgess.

“He inspires me,” said Hummitzsch. “Eventually, when I became an NCO, I tried to reflect what he did for me, because to me, his is the best form of leadership that I’ve seen.”

 Burgess hopes that this form of leadership, one that has sprouted Marines with such stellar performance, will spread like wildfire throughout the organization.

“I feel like [CEL] is something that I’ve probably been doing this whole time but I know there can be a lot more people doing this stuff too,” he said. “I think that if everyone was more committed and engaged with their Marines … the Marine Corps would be better off.”

This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting the committed and engaged leaders of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

3rd Marine Aircraft Wing