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Checkerboard takes back seat ride

By Cpl. Micah Snead | | April 21, 2005

A thrill-seeking Fightertown Marine recently took the ride of a lifetime.

Sergeant Troy N. Thompson, flight equipment technician, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312, took a ride in the backseat of an F/A-18 Hornet piloted by his squadron commanding officer, Lt. Col. Douglas A. Denn, April 21.

Thompson was rewarded with the flight for winning the Marine Aircraft Group 31 Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter board earlier this year. From there, he went on to win the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing board, focused all along on capturing the coveted backseat ride.

“I actually read an article in The Jetstream about a Marine who received an incentive flight and I instantly knew that was what I wanted,” Thompson said. “I thought to myself, ‘Yeah, that is for me’.”

The incentive flight program rewards enlisted Marines with the opportunity to join an exclusive group of military members. The program is good motivation for many flight line Marines, according to Thompson.

“It is a great incentive, especially for the Marines who work in or around the jets,” Thompson said. “I do not know anybody who would not want to do it. I was glad I got the chance because hopefully that will motivate junior Marines, or any other Marine, to aim for this goal. It really gives you something to strive for.”

The 26-year-old sergeant also took the time to re-enlist during his flight.

“It was an awesome opportunity,” Thompson said. “A lot of Marines try to make their re-enlistments memorable, and I know I will never forget this.”

The Goldendale, Wash., native has found success on previous boards, including winning a meritorious promotion to corporal. He attributes his success to his competitive nature.

“I just want to be the best,” Thompson said. “I enjoy the competition against my peers because they are the best out there and I would not want it any other way.”

Since enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1997, Thompson has had several extraordinary experiences. During his first term, he served as a military policeman attached to Marine Helicopter Squadron 1, the helicopter unit responsible for transporting the president.

“That was an amazing experience,” Thompson said. “Very few Marines get to know what that is all about and I really enjoyed it. I was fortunate enough to have my family meet and greet President Clinton.”

Deployments around the world, skydiving and even working directly for the Commander-in-Chief may not compare to the feeling of being strapped into a Hornet, but all of the experiences
combined have made for an awesome ride, according to Thompson.

“The flight was a real thrill,” Thompson said. “My whole career has been a lot of work and a lot of fun, and I am just looking forward to whatever comes next.”