View Full Version : No such thing as failure for Marine flying casevac missions

11-05-05, 08:03 PM
No such thing as failure for Marine flying casevac missions
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by Cpl. Cullen J. Tiernan

AL TAQQADUM, Iraq (Nov. 5, 2005) -- Whether he is flying behind a .50 cal machine gun or turning wrenches on the flightline, three consecutive deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom have shaped him into an experienced sergeant of Marines.

Sergeant Jason G. Hernandez, a crew chief and CH-46 Sea Knight mechanic with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161, has gone from a novice lance corporal to a sergeant the squadron’s sergeant major goes to for advice.

“When I’m back home, I miss the rush. I miss the flying. I genuinely miss the mission,” said Hernandez, an Orange Park, Fla., native. “Every time I come out here, I learn something new.”

Hernandez said his deployments have taken him from a time when he dug his own bathroom and the only meals he ate were Meals Ready to Eat, to living in tents with air conditioning and steak and lobster dinners.

“I love doing what you’re trained for and seeing results,” said Hernandez. “Here, you see your improvements. Every mission you fly you see results.”

As a Greyhawk with HMM-161, Hernandez mans a .50 cal machine guns as they soar into hostile environments to transport wounded Iraqi civilians, Coalition and Iraqi forces and prisoners of war so corpsmen can provide in-flight medical care as they fly to the best equipped hospitals in Iraq.

“Whether there is a firefight or a sandstorm, we fly and we pick up (wounded U.S. service members),” said Hernandez. “Others might throw up flags, but every single time we get the call we are out there.”

Hernandez said every day the casevac alarm does not go off is a good day. But as soon as it does, everyone becomes completely focused on the mission.

“I’ll never forget a call we had to pick up four angels (U.S. service member killed in action),” said Hernandez. “The Soldiers were all saluting their fallen brothers, and one reached to me and shook my hand. He told me to send these guys back home. Seeing a whole unit saying goodbye to their guys was the worst feeling in the world. But, I was glad to do my part.”

The Marines and corpsmen of II Marine Expeditionary Force casevac teams have to be ready for any mission, and Hernandez, through his three deployments, has seen a wide range of them.

“We had a call for an infant Iraqi child,” said Hernandez. “I have a child myself and I
immediately thought of her back home. The Iraqi girl had a terrible fever and to breath, the corpsman had to hook her up to a lot of machines. I hated it. I thought she would end up with brain damage, or she might die with us.”

Two days after flying with the girl, Hernandez said he found out she had made it and would be line.

“The baby girl making it made me so happy,” said Hernandez. “It makes you think and feel good. The father of that child might have been shooting at us, but we are here doing the right thing saving a child’s life.”

Hernandez’s love of his mission has infected the Marines who work for him. Marines who are deploying for the first time said they see and watch the speed and skill with which he reacts and they strive to emulate him.

“He’s awesome to work with,” said Lance Cpl. Adam Timar, a crew chief and a Tetonia, Idaho, native. “He takes care of everyone underneath him. His first concern is always getting the right thing done, and he looks out for everyone. He’s just an all around good leader. You want to work for him.”

Timar said whenever he has a specific question, he goes to Hernandez. He considers him a man with answers, a real experienced source of knowledge.

“Hernandez keeps us flying,” said Sgt. Maj. William F. Fitzgerald III, HMM-161’s sergeant major. “His leadership aided us in taking control of the casevac mission nine days early. His knowledge of aircraft maintenance is vital during the missions. As a mechanic, he knows how to fix anything that might go wrong.”

Fitzgerald said Hernandez has a big influence on all the Greyhawks. He said the younger Greyhawks are learning from him and performing well.

“He is always someone I can go to on the flightline,” said Fitzgerald. “I personally sought him out while I was training. He’s a valuable source of information and leadership.”

Hernandez is proud of the squadron’s many accomplishments and successful missions. He said the Greyhawks set the tone on how casevac missions are flown.

“There is such thing as failure,” said Hernandez. “We’re the forefathers of the casevac mission in the Marine Corps. We do it quickly and safely. I think the worst feeling in the world would be getting hurt and not knowing if you would get medical attention. The work we do is building a reputation. People know they can call on us and will be there.”