Face of Defense: Crew Chief Reveals Passion for Flying
By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C., , May 4, 2012 A UH-1N Huey helicopter crew chief here is confident both on the ground and in the air.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jay R. Wright watches the horizon for possible threats while flying aboard a UH-1N Huey helicopter during a training exercise, April 30, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polum
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jay R. Wright is a dual-qualified crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 467, where he works on Hueys and Cobras. He maintains the aircraft and serves as an extra set of eyes in the helicopter during missions and testing.
Wright, a Wasicca, Alaska, native, stepped on the yellow footprints, Sept. 15, 2008, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Calif.
“I knew right out of high school I wanted to join the military,” He said. My father was in the Air Force, and I told myself I wanted to join a more rugged branch. I also made it clear that I wanted to be in the air. I wanted to fly, and that was it.”
Wright said his recruiter gave him two options: either go to college and become an officer or enlist as a crew chief. Choosing the latter, Wright arrived here after his military occupational school, and his supervisors say he thrived immediately.
“Lance Corporal Wright is the junior Marine every shop hopes to have,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Stephen M. Salinas, a fellow crew chief in Wright’s squadron. “Wright has learned so much about both the Hueys and the Cobras. He has qualifications under his name that some corporals do not. Wright could be a sergeant with the amount of weight he carries in both knowledge and leadership abilities.”
Wright’s aerial duties include making sure the rotor blades are free of debris, monitoring gauges, communicating with pilots, and keeping a 360-degree watch around the helicopter. Each morning, he goes out with other crew chiefs to test fuel samples for debris or water. If they find any issues, they must drain and replace the fuel so it doesn’t damage the helicopter’s engine.
“On the ground, the biggest variable is the weather,” Wright said. “In the air, it is a whole new ball game. So many different things could go wrong, from an engine failing to a dust storm coming upon us. Also, when we are operating the guns, there is a possibility of jams and other weapon malfunctions.”
While in flight, Wright said, he has to be able to make a quick judgment call and let the pilot know whether he feels a situation is safe to proceed or unsafe to land. “In the sky, we are an extra set of eyes for the pilots,” he said.
The 22-year-old Alaskan said he enjoys what he does and credits his work ethic to the influence and mentorship of Salinas. But his first taste of Marine Corps motivation about his job field came at boot camp, he added.
“One of my drill instructors was a crew chief, and the best thing he did for me was tell me I would never make it in his job field,” Wright said. “Those words still motivate me today to be the best I can be as a crew chief.”
A few months after Wright arrived at the squadron, he was able to show and test his skills as a crew chief during a six-month deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
“On the MEU, Wright spent his off time studying or lifting weights instead of playing video games like some of his peers,” Salinas. “He is constantly trying to better himself as a person and a Marine.”