View Full Version : Deuce XO takes reins of command, flies combat missions in Iraq

09-27-05, 07:46 AM
Deuce XO takes reins of command, flies combat missions in Iraq
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan

AL ASAD, Iraq (Sept. 23, 2005) -- For many people, doing two jobs at once is an unwelcomed burden. For hard-charging Marines, it’s a welcomed challenge and a chance to become better at both.

Major Keith Couch, the acting commanding officer of Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2 (Forward), is leading his squadron in war while simultaneously flying combat missions in Iraq, protecting Marines and soldiers with their boots in the sand.

“Flying combat missions and commanding MWHS-2 work hand in hand,” said the Leslie County, Ky., native. “Commanding headquarters squadron, you have the advantage of getting a firsthand perspective of what is happening on base. Then, flying missions allows you the implementation of that knowledge on the battlefield. You are able to fly and see intelligence unfold on the battlefield.”

Couch said his position enables him to have a better perspective for doing both jobs. He compared it to having his cake and eating it too.

“I have a broader view of everything,” said Couch. “Base security, what units are coming and going, basically, the whole picture of what goes on here.”

The acting sergeant major of MWHS-2, Master Gunnery Sgt. William H. Butler, said Couch seems very comfortable in this element and he understands his roles and duties. Couch served in Operation Iraqi Freedom I, and is a veteran of flying missions in theater.

“He lets Marines do their jobs, and supports them,” said Butler. “The Deuce (MWHS-2) family atmosphere, with tight-knit units, is easily kept alive under his leadership. Flying and commanding balance each other and keep him balanced in his decision-making process.”

Couch will be flying AV-8B Harriers with Marine Attack Squadron 223. He plans on flying a couple times per week, but is prepared to fly more as long as it does not interfere with his role commanding his Deuce Marines.

“Initially, the first time you go into combat you are a bit apprehensive,” said Couch. “You learn to enjoy it because you get a chance to do what you have been training for years to do.”

Couch has served as a forward air controller with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Korea and Okinawa, Japan. His wealth of knowledge and experience makes him valuable to lead the Marines in his squadron and flying as a Harrier pilot.

“When I first got to VMA-223, he was a senior captain,” said Capt. Richard Rusnok, the pilot training officer with VMA-223, who served with Couch during Operation Iraqi Freedom I. “He was, and still is, very approachable and knowledgeable about tactics and systems. He’s a good role model and having him here helps us out a lot.”

Rusnok recalled when Couch was leaving their squadron, he still sacrificed his own time to help him and the rest of the squadron as they prepared for weapons and tactics instruction.

“He was our maintenance officer, and now serves a vital role as a functional test pilot,” said Rusnok, a native of Pittston, Pa. “After certain types of maintenance are performed on Harriers, only he and three other pilots from the squadron can fly the aircraft to ensure they are operational. Also, on the administrative side, he is someone we can call on whenever we have a problem.”

Couch’s dual abilities have enabled him to serve a double purpose against the insurgents.

“Sitting behind a desk, you can’t really do anything when we experience (indirect fire),” said Couch. “As a pilot, I can go out and potentially stop that from happening here to us or someone else by prosecuting enemy targets.”