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thedrifter
06-19-07, 06:29 AM
06/18/2007
Childhood dream leads NP man to Top Secret assignment in D.C.
By JOHN LINDENBERGER , The North Platte Telegraph

As a young child, Brandon Lundeen told his dad that he planned to enlist in the military when he got older. Although his father died in a tragic work accident when he was in eighth grade, Brandon kept his promise.

After graduating from North Platte High School in 2005, Lundeen enlisted with the Marine Corps. Lundeen said he always wanted to fly, and his promise to his dad was a big motivation for him to enlist with the Marines.

Today, the 20-year-old lance corporal serves as a crew chief for the HMX-1. This elite Marine Corps helicopter squadron provides air transportation for the President of the United States as well as other top heads of state.


“It’s a tough lifestyle, but you learn a lot and get a lot from it,” Lundeen said during a recent visit to North Platte. “You find out what you’re made of.”

Lundeen was just about to finish his eighth grade year when his father was killed. His dad was helping remove trees at a construction sight when a tree fell the wrong way. Lundeen said his dad was not able to get out of the way.

Although his grandfather and uncle served in the military, Lundeen said his family does not have a tradition of military service. He attributes his interest in joining the military to Hollywood.

“Honestly the whole reason I decided to fly when I was young was the movie ‘Top Gun,’” Lundeen said. “I decided I wanted to be a fighter pilot.”

As he got older and learned a little more about the military, he decided he wanted more of a challenge. While he admits becoming a fighter pilot is not easy by any means, he wanted something more physically challenging.

He found what he was looking for in the Marine Corps. He learned through a friend that the Marine enlisted boot camp was more difficult. He was also told that enlisted men made better officers.

Being in the Marines would still allow him to fly and get combat experience. Plus he could learn a trade as a helicopter mechanic and possibly become an officer down the road if he decided to do that.

After completing boot camp and all of his required training, Lundeen became a member of the HMLA-775 helicopter squadron where he served as a door gunner and a mechanic starting in June 2006.

Lundeen said his initial goal was simply to earn his wings for the UN-1 helicopter known as a “Huey.” Once he accomplished that, he tried to volunteer for a squadron that was deploying to Iraq.

“The 775 didn’t have the manpower to let us go at the time, so I wasn’t able to go,” Lundeen said. “Really all I wanted to do was earn my combat wings.”

He eventually met some representatives from the HMX helicopter squadron and discovered a new career path.

In January of this year, Lundeen got orders to go to HMX-1. Lundeen said new squadron recruits become members of what is called the “green side,” which is responsible for transporting gear and support staff such as Secret Service agents.

Those who can complete the rigorous security investigation can go on to the “white side,” also referred to as “The Cage.” These Marines are the ones who transport important government leaders like the President.

To become a member of “The Cage,” Lundeen said a Marine must get Top Secret clearance. The process includes several interviews with friends and family back home as well as a thorough background check.

Lundeen said something as simple as a speeding ticket can affect a person’s ability to get into the “white side.” He said if they find four or more speeding tickets on a person’s record, that person would be disqualified for 10 years.

“You have to have a clean background,” Lundeen said.

He said he has flown in formations that have transported some pretty important people, although he could not elaborate on who they were. He said he hopes to have his clearance for the “white side” later this year.

Lundeen noted when working toward “white side” authorization, if investigators find any reason that a Marine can be blackmailed or cannot be trusted with confidential information, then that person will be sent back to the fleet Marine Corps.

Ellie