ABOARD THE USS KEARSARGE, Atlantic Ocean, Oct. 23, 2015 —
The Marine Corps League presents
the Sgt. Maj. Frederick B. Douglass award annually to a Marine who demonstrates
superior qualities and actions during the performance of his or her duties in
the aviation community. An individual needs to receive recommendation from his
leadership and approval from a commanding officer for eligibility.
Sgt. Jan Kamphuis, an air
traffic controller assigned to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is the most
recent recipient of the prestigious award.
Kamphuis, a Warrenton, Virginia,
native, said his Marine Corps career began shortly after he graduated from
Roanoke University with a bachelor’s degree in history and felt called to serve.
“I’ve always felt it’s the
duty and responsibility of Americans to give back and do their part to keep
this country safe,” said Kamphuis. “If we want to keep this country great, we
have to give back and do our part.”
Starting a Challenging Career
He said his family reacted
positively to his decision, even though he is the only member of his immediate
family to serve in the armed forces. The most recent was his grandfather, who
served in the Dutch military.
Kamphuis enlisted as an
air traffic controller -- an occupation that includes a range of
responsibilities involving the deployment, recovery and tracking of aircraft in
“He’s a local controller,”
said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Timothy J. Layton, a fellow 26th MEU air traffic
controller and a Spring Hill, Florida, native. “He is qualified to communicate
with aircraft in the local area and get them to the ground.”
Kamphuis said he primarily
performs his duties in an expeditionary capacity, building landing zones and
refueling points for aircraft prior to their disembarkation from a ship, and
establishing communications to direct and control the flow of air traffic to
and from those locations.
“It’s a pretty good job,”
said Kamphuis. “It can get difficult at times, but it’s rewarding.”
Focused, Confident Teacher
Kamphuis’ leaders have
noted his ability to execute well during stressful times.
“He’s always professional
and knows how to stay focused on the situation,” Layton said. “He’s always
confident when communicating with the pilots, and that isn’t always easy when
you’re trying to ensure two aircraft don’t trade paint in the air.”
Kamphuis said ATCs have
"to stay mentally alert and aware at all times. When things get difficult,
you have to stay calm and control the situation as efficiently as possible.”
Layton said one big factor
in Kamphuis' nomination and eventual selection for the award was how he took the
lead in training the sailors on the ship. “When we disembark from a ship, we
all work together as an integrated team to set up an airfield," he said.
"And Kamphuis has taken huge steps in preparing them to work with us and
perform while we're forward-positioned."
Kamphuis has also taught
and assisted others with various air traffic control certifications. During the
weapons and tactics instructors’ course -- a large-scale training event
conducted in Yuma, Arizona -- he acted as a Marine Corps Air Traffic Control
Seeking Leadership Opportunities
He said his professional
successes have influenced his plans for the future -- he wants to continue his
career in the Marine Corps and seek out more responsibilities.
“I’ve applied for
re-enlistment and would like to apply for the enlisted commissioning program if
I’m approved,” said Kamphuis. “I already have a college degree, so the
commissioning process would be simplified, and I could continue to develop my
skills and lead Marines.”
Those goals seem to align
with the career trajectory his leaders and peers predict he’ll achieve.
“He’s never set a goal that
he hasn’t accomplished,” Layton said. “He’s well-educated, capable and one of
the best Marines I’ve worked with.”
Kamphuis said he still has
his mind set on his current mission while deployed with the 26th MEU. “I want
to do the best I can in my job, and I want to be the best Marine I can every
single day,” he said.