Dedicated Marines lead the way to mission accomplishment

27 Nov 2007 | Sgt. M. P. Shelato

During the action to support the continuing Operation Iraqi Freedom, Marines and Sailors throughout the area of operations have worked long hours in hostile environments, rarely slowing down or stopping until their mission was completed.

Service members of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 have been no exception to that rule - the "White Knights" have been performing their duties efficiently since they began participating in the operation.  Each Marine and Sailor has stepped up to the plate, but some have performed their trade above and beyond the call of duty.  Here are some of the Marines that have excelled during the mission to topple Saddam Hussein's regime:

Name:  Cpl. Demarcus D. Mitchell

Job title:  administrative clerk

Unit: HMM-165

Hometown:  Houston, Texas

Mitchell has been with the White Knights for little more than a year and has been deployed twice within that time frame. Though this means he's spent a great deal of time away from home, Mitchell said he has gathered more information about being an administrative clerk while deployed than he could have while working at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

"We've learned a lot of lessons from the previous deployment," Mitchell said of his involvement with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. "At this point, we know how to fix just about everything that could go wrong administratively."

Though his tasks may become tedious at times, Mitchell said the best way to do his work is to stay ahead of the game. 

"We measure our work level by the amount of (personnel action request forms) we don't receive," Mitchell explained.  "If our Marines aren't coming to us with pay problems, that means we're doing our job that much better."

Working with a Marines' pay problems while deployed is not easy. Mitchell has dealt with problems such as not having regular computer access, a weak Internet connection when available, any Unit Diary/ Marine Integrated Personnel System access and sporadic communication with the administrative element at Miramar.

"I like helping people out," said Mitchell of his duties as an administrative clerk. 

Name:  Lance Cpl. Gregory T. Harding

Job Title:  CH-46E aircraft electronics systems technician

Unit:  HMM-165

Hometown:  Lancaster, Pa.

As an electronics systems technician, Harding says he has been kept busy troubleshooting and maintaining the complicated electronics systems of the CH-46E helicopters flown by the "White Knights." 

"Out here the dirt and sand is always fouling our aircraft's parts," Harding said.  "Friction caused by the vibrating aircraft wears down wires, causing failures and false alarms."

Electronics maintenance on the "White Knights'" aircraft is essential to the squadron's overall performance, according to Harding. Since the helicopters could be sent to a combat area on a moments notice to move wounded troops or carry essential supplies, Harding and the Marines he works with have to be ready to put in extra hours to keep them running.

"If (an aircraft) has been downed, we have to work on that aircraft until it is operational," said Harding.

Master Sgt. John D. Walrath, avionics chief, HMM-165, said Harding shows potential to become a good noncommissioned officer.

"Harding is one of our more energetic and motivated Marines," Walrath said. "He has a lot to learn about the aircraft, but he has many of the characteristics to become a good leader."

Name:  Sgt. Sung W. Yi

Job Title:  CH-46E flight line mechanic

Unit:  HMM-165

Hometown:  Herndon, Va.

One of the more experienced noncommissioned officers at HMM-165, Sgt. Yi has been with the "White Knights" before they moved from Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif. to MCAS Miramar, Calif. Yi was deployed with HMM-165 with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in 1999, the 13th MEU in 2001 and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since Jan. 17 this year.

"I look back to Marines that have worked under me when I was a Lance Corporal; they're all good corporals and sergeants now and that makes me feel good," said Yi.

Yi attributes his knowledge of CH-46E maintenance to his being assigned to different sections within the squadron, including maintenance control, where he ordered parts for the aircraft.  Working as a maintenance controller gave Yi the chance to learn the contents of technical publications necessary for aircraft maintenance.

"I learned how the other shops work and how the squadron functions," Yi said.

Yi's job is to make sure the "White Knights'" aircraft are safe to fly; he supervises more than 20 Marines, who are responsible for performing scheduled maintenance and pre-flight checks before any of the helicopters are flown on a mission.

"Sergeant Yi pretty much runs our shop," said Cpl. Scott R. Cowan, CH-46E helicopter mechanic, HMM-165.

Cowan, a Chico Calif. native, has spent more than two and a half years with Yi, and said he has complete confidence in his ability to lead the other mechanics.

"Sgt. Yi taught us to work hard and not to take short cuts," Cowan said.  "(Yi) is a hard worker himself - if the people you work with get the job done, they can pretty much make your day."