I’m a basic instructor, NATOPS
[Naval Air Training and Operating
Procedures Standardization] instructor and Crew Resource Management
facilitator. I’m also the subject matter
expert on our simulator. That’s a full-time job on its own. The VMU is
moving right now to Yuma.
Most people, when you say
UAVs, they think of the Predator or
the Reaper that have Hellfire missiles on it. The Marine Corps does
not have that. People always ask,
‘Do we fly it in Afghanistan, blowing people up?’ I’m like, ‘no, we
have line-of-sight equipment.’ We
have to physically be there. People
think that we can spy on them.
There are federal laws that prevent
that. I just think it’s funny.
Our tempo is pretty crazy. It’s
exercise after exercise. And each
exercise, not only are we supporting
units, but then we have to get our
training in to get our guys qualified.
It definitely keeps you busy.
I’ve learned a lot of transferable
skills. I’ve set myself up for success
in the future. I love the infantry, but
there’s not much future outside the
military for the infantry. Teaching is
important, I do enjoy it, but flying
in general is probably my favorite
part. Sometimes it can be exhausting, but it’s satisfying at the same
time because you’re training someone to do everything that you
learned. You’re passing the torch,
essentially. I have to rely on the guys
I’m training to be as good as me, if
not better. Hopefully better.
The school is to learn the bare
essentials on how to operate everything. It’s almost like getting a driver’s license. Once you get to the
unit, you have to go through your
qualifications to make sure you can
operate it safely on your own.
I always try to show the guys that
we’re not the mission. People aren’t
there for us; we’re there for other
people. We are there to support the
ground guys. That’s pretty much
what every role is in the Marine
Corps. I really try to instill that with
the guys and let them know the big
picture. … We are painting a picture
for the battlefield commanders so
they can make a better decision. It
also prevents loss of life on our end.
I had a buddy, Cpl. [Roberto]
Cazarez. He was killed by an IED
during that [Afghanistan] deployment. Obviously, things happen.
You can’t prevent every death on the
battlefield. There’s always the potential, you have that eye in the sky and
see that guy who’s planting an IED,
and we are able to catch him or stop
that, then that’s a Marine’s life we
just saved right there. It’s a