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Fightertown Marine awarded for actions in OIF

By Cpl. C. Alex Herron | | September 3, 2004

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A Marine from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort's Search and Rescue team was awarded an Air Medal, Aug. 25.

Staff Sgt. Avery Cruz, maintenance administration, SAR was awarded an Air Medal for his actions while attached to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 from March to April 2003 and with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 while operating in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in August 1997 and January 1998.               

“This award isn’t for me, it is for all the Marines who worked behind the scenes,” said Staff Sgt. Avery J. Cruz, maintenance administration chief, Search and Rescue. “If it were not for them I would have never been able to accept this medal.”

Cruz contributed 47.5 flight hours during 33 combat missions in support of coalition forces in Operations Iraqi Freedom, Desert Eagle and Desert Fox.

“He deserves this award for all the flying he did,” said Sgt. Eric Malloy, maintenance admin clerk, SAR, who deployed with Cruz with HMM 161. “He takes charge of situations and He looks out for his Marines. I’d go back to war with him anytime.”

The Air Medal is awarded to any member of the uniformed service who distinguishes himself with meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this award,” Cruz said.  “It is really special because, not many enlisted have this award.”

Cruz’s responsibilities during flight included maintaining the left side of the aircraft for the crew chief, during various maneuvers.

“We were doing land-based operations in different bases in Iraq,” Cruz said. “We mostly participated in casualty evacuation operations.”

The 28-year-old Lancaster, Calif., native has been in the Marine Corps for 10 years and held several billets outside his original Military Occupational Specialty.

“Since I was able to receive my aircrew wings, I have been able to do more than just maintenance admin during my career,” Cruz said. “My secondary MOS is aerial gunner/observer.”

Including maintenance administration and aerial observer, Cruz also spent a tour of duty on the drill field at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif.

“I enjoy the drill field,” Cruz said. “I would love to go back to the drill field. I enjoy the regimental side. If I could be a career drill instructor, I would.”

Since he could not be a career drill instructor, Cruz has tried to stay in the rotor-wing community.

“I like the rotor-wing because it takes enlisted and officers working together to fly the aircraft,” Cruz said. “It requires the private first class on up to make the unit be successful.”

Even with the accolades and awards bestowed upon him, Cruz has kept a level head about all the attention he has received.

“The medal was nice to get,” Cruz said. “But I got an award for just doing my job.”
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