AL ASAD, Iraq -- When Aviation Logistics Department, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, ordnance chief Master Sgt. Michael L. Sunday received orders to Iraq one month ago, he expected to travel to foreign countries with unfamiliar surroundings and even less familiar faces.
Almost immediately upon his arrival to Camp Wolverine in Kuwait however, the 41-year-old New Cumberland, Pa., native began to feel right at home.
This is because he began to encounter a significant number of the more than 1,100 Marines he helped mold in the aviation ordnance field while serving as the "principal" of the Naval Aviation Maintenance Training Marine Unit at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C.
The first former pupil to recognize Sunday was 21-year-old aviation ordnance technician, Lance Cpl. Brian M. Walsh of Tallahassee, Fla. According to the Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd MAW, leatherneck, seeing his mentor after more than two years was a pleasant surprise.
"It was pretty wild to see him again," said Walsh. "It kind of makes you think that it's a small Marine Corps because I'm all the way over in Kuwait, thousands of miles away from the U.S., and here I am running into him and living in the same tent with him for a few days on our way to our final destination in Iraq. I'm pretty good with faces, so to see a friendly face so far away from home made the journey easier."
For Sunday, coming across any of his former students or instructors is more than just a casual situation. It is an opportunity to witness his influence on their development since departing "Sunday" school.
"I liken it to meeting up with family," he reflected after a lengthy pause. "Seeing the amount of growth the ordnance Marines, who went through NAMTRA during my time there, have made makes me feel like a proud father watching his children grow."
Ironically, the position Sunday fills here is similar to what a father would; he's in direct support of the Marines he has trained.
"The role I play in Iraq with 3rd MAW ALD is basically providing logistical support from the (United States) to the MALS units," said Sunday. "So in essence, if something needs to be ordered or something needs command attention from our level, we are the push to get them what they need."
Not surprisingly, many of the Marines, senior and junior, who have served with Sunday have felt the lasting impression of his lessons.
"I was promoted to staff sergeant under him," said 28-year-old MAG-16 aviation ordnance technician, Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Holden, from El Paso, Texas. "I've basically molded what I know now, from what I've learned from him. He's the ultimate professional and he's had a significant impact on the way I conduct myself as a staff non-commissioned officer today."
"Master Sergeant Sunday always stressed the importance of safety to us, and that has always stuck with me," said 19-year-old MALS-16 aviation ordnance technician, Lance Cpl. Alex J. Martin, of Lakewood, Wash. "When I was back at (NAMTRA), troop welfare was also one of the biggest things he expressed; so while I'm out here in Iraq, we try to keep things as close as we can and look after one another to keep morale up."
The words seem to escape Sunday when attempting to describe the degree of respect his students have earned from the ordnance veteran of more than 20 years.
"To watch the success that these Marines have achieved makes you proud and gives you the satisfaction of knowing that what you've taught them and accomplished has paid off," he said. "Considering the amount of responsibility they have, the job that they are doing out here in Iraq is incredible. It makes me proud not only to be a Marine leader, but to be associated with these Marines, period."