MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Three maintenance Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 251 were recently awarded for their exemplary work while supporting and representing their squadron over the past few weeks.
Two of the Marines, Lance Cpl. Jared Thomas and Cpl. Kenneth Garcia, both ordnance technicians with VMFA-251 were named Marine Aircraft Group 31’s Noncommissioned Officer and Marine of the Quarter respectively after taking part in the group-wide board earlier this month. The third Marine, Sgt. Brent Wiggins, the powerline division chief for the T-bolts, was recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty when his squadron needed him most during a training exercise in Savannah, Ga.
Wiggins was called on two consecutive non-working days to take care of maintenance issues that had arisen during a local cross-country training evolution. Some of the Thunderbolt aircrew was participating in air-to-air training at the Savannah International Airport Sept. 17-18.
“I received word on Friday night that one of the jets was having some issues,” Wiggins said. “I got up early on Saturday, got all of the tools I needed and headed to Savannah.”
After arriving, Wiggins began troubleshooting the down aircraft to assess why the engine was vibrating. After finding a loose oil tank, replacing the main fuel control and re-rigging the rapid pinion to adjust one of the engine’s low idling problems that had also developed, Wiggins returned to Beaufort following 10 hours of maintenance.
“It wasn’t a fun day,” Wiggins said. “Me and my fellow Marine were covered in oil and grease, but I was happy to be going back to my house and salvage at least one day of the weekend.”
The next morning, Wiggins received another call from the Marines in Savannah, requesting his assistance.
“I was brushing my teeth when the phone rang. They told me one of the tires needed to be replaced,” Wiggins said. “I didn’t believe them and had them take a picture of it with their cell phone.”
After seeing the damage, Wiggins gathered up his tools and made the hour trip to Savannah, again.
“I ended up having to change the left main landing gear tire and serviced the other jets before leaving,” Wiggins said.
Both days, Wiggins enlisted the help of the two junior Marines in his shop to assist with the maintenance. Taking one on Saturday and another on Sunday, gave him the chance to get to know them and give them the opportunity to receive some valuable on the job training.
“Both Marines have been with us for less than a month, so getting to know them, along with training them one-on-one was a bonus for the weekend,” Wiggins said. “They were able to get a lot of good training out of the situation.”
Looking for a chance to train his junior troops and taking responsibility when work needs to get done are qualities Wiggins has demonstrated since checking into the squadron more than three years ago, according to Capt. Joe Yoskovich, a former powerline officer in charge with VMFA-251.
“Sgt. Wiggins is a Marine that floats above the fine group of noncommissioned officers in the powerline division,” Yoskovich said. “I watched him grow from the quiet kid in the corner to a leader. His junior troops will seek his advice and counsel for anything.”
Along with Wiggins, ‘251 has two other Marines who demonstrate the Thunderbolt spirit and will soon represent Marine Aircraft Group 31 during a 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing promotion board later this year. Garcia and Thomas were both selected to take part in the squadron-level board by the senior NCO’s in the ordnance division.
“We chose Corporal Garcia and Lance Corporal Thomas because they are highly motivated and know their jobs as well as any Marine can,” said Sergeant Chris Cole, the ordnance noncommissioned officer-in-charge. We selected them and are proud they have represented our shop as well as they have.”
The two Marines understand what they have accomplished and are proud to represent their division and squadron as the MAG’s Marine and NCO of the quarter.
“With the squadrons, everything is a competition,” Thomas said. “Taking this board gives us bragging rights over the other squadrons here.”
The ordnance division is one of the biggest divisions in the Thunderbolts. Just being selected to participate in the squadron level board is recognition enough, but being able to participate and win at the Group level is an accomplishment these Marines will be proud of for years to come, according to Thomas.
“The best thing about this award is affirmation that we are doing what is expected,” Thomas said. “This lets me know that I am on the right track to being successful in the Marine Corps.”
“There are times when it feels like no matter what you do, nobody cares about your work, but getting this award and representing the entire group is an honor that means a lot. Being recognized for what I do is nice. This is something that shows not only us as individuals, but is a reflection on the entire ordnance division.”
With the recent accomplishments of these three Marines, the entire T-bolt team can take pride in knowing that they are among the cream of the crop in aviation maintenance.