MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, CA --
A distinguished UH-1Y Huey crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267 on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., hits a significant milestone in his many years of flying by breaking an astonishing flight record this year.
Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Slaven, logged in over 5,000 hours of flight time, an almost unheard of achievement.
Slaven joined the Marine Corps in 1995 and attended boot camp at Marine Corps Recruiting Depot Parris Island, S.C. He joined as an open contract and received an aviation Military Occupational Specialty.
“I was a good enough swimmer in boot camp so I qualified to be a crew chief,” said Slaven. “In crew chief school, you get the option of which aircraft you want to work with, and I got Hueys. I started flying in July 1996 and haven’t stopped since.”
Slaven has a long list of admirable accomplishments including three tours to Iraq and one to Afghanistan, deploying with of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, being a crew chief and weapons and tactics instructor, and serving as the staff noncommissioned officer of the crew chief school, all while flying the entire time.
“My night time flying is way up in the thousands, my combat time is around 1,300 hours,” said Slaven. “I’ve done a lot of combat engagements, the most rewarding things I’ve ever done was in combat.”
Now that the Huey can be utilized to carry water buckets and fight fires, Slaven is now the subject matter expert on those procedures and teaches classes.
Along with all of his accomplishments, Slaven is considered an excellent instructor and advisor when it comes to teaching both old and new Marines to become better crew chiefs.
“He’s very versatile because he can teach a very young person who doesn’t know much about the job, or a senior person who’s becoming an instructor,” said Maj. John Millsap, operations officer for HMLA-267. “That’s the kind of value that he brings, he can make everyone better.”
In July 2017, Slaven plans on retiring after 22 years of service.
“I can’t say I haven’t had a good time doing what I do,” said Slaven. “I’ve been one of those lucky guys that have never done anything but fly.”
Though he’s surprisingly afraid of heights, Slaven hopes to retire but continue to fly in some capacity as a civilian.
“I can say it’s not for everybody,” said Slaven. “It’s kind of a rigorous job and it’s hard when you first start off. If I could stay in forever, I would.”
When Slaven retires, the Marine Corps will be losing a very important asset, according to Millsap.
“He’s been on several deployments, logged thousands of flight hours and has been in multiple different squadrons and multiple billets,” said Millsap. “He’s very humble, he always has a good attitude and is always willing to fly or train other people. He’s outstanding. I’ve flown with him in combat and here [at Pendleton], I’d put him on my team any day.”