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Capt. Benjamin Read, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212 airframes officer and pilot, accomplished much of the required training for a section-lead designator during Exercise Southern Frontier at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Chris Dobbs

U.S. Marine Capt. Benjamin Read

From Avionics Man To Pilot, Marine Captain
Pursues Excellence

By Lance Cpl. Chris Dobbs
Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan, Aug. 9, 2007 —   Every kid is asked what he wants to be when he grows up. Most children name popular professions: “I want to be a doctor,” or “I’m going to be a firefighter,” or “I want to be a teacher.” But how many of those children actually go on to become what they say they want to be?

After he joined a family friend on a private flight as a 10-year-old, Benjamin Read knew what he wanted. From that day on, his answer to that inevitable “What do you want to be?” question was: “I want to be a pilot.”

While many years have passed since the 31-year-old, now an Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 212 airframes officer-in-charge, was a child, most of those years have been spent pursuing his dream and polishing his skills.

The native of Charlotte, N.C., will shortly earn his section-lead designation, which is an important step in a pilot’s career.

“It’s a significant milestone because it authorizes me to lead junior wingman into combat,” said the relaxed, mild-mannered Read. “As a wingman, you’re mostly responsible for yourself. As the section-lead, you’re responsible for the other pilot, his safety and the accomplishment of the mission.”

Read, a graduate of Oregon State University, didn’t take a direct route to his chosen profession. After high school and a brief stint in college, he joined the enlisted ranks of the Marine Corps.

“I didn’t think (becoming an officer and pilot) was an option at that time,” said Read, who has a degree in business management. “I didn’t have the personal discipline required for college.”

So he joined the Marine Corps as an avionics maintainer and found himself working on CH-53 helicopters. While his job required his full attention, his goal of becoming a pilot never left his sights. Three years into his enlistment, the corporal told his master sergeant, “Top Burdette,” of his aspirations to become an officer and pilot.

“He told me, ‘If that’s what you want to do, then go for it’,” said Read.

So Read submitted an officer package, believing that his chances for getting selected for the competitive program were slim to none. A few months later, he received a welcomed surprise: He got in.

“It was pretty exciting,” said Read, who was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona the time. “I couldn’t believe it at first.”

Read and his wife of 12 years, Heather, headed to North Carolina State University where Read would pursue officer status on an active-duty Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship.

Being prior enlisted, it was Read’s job to lead the students in the program and teach them drill movements.

“We went to the field a lot, and it was a good chance to gain some leadership skills," said Read.

Two years of successful training later, Read and Heather, then with their first child, son Elijah, moved to Oregon to be closer to Heather’s family. Read completed his education at Oregon State University.

After Officer Candidate School and years of training, Read became a pilot in August 2004. Now at his first duty station, he looks back at the decision he made to follow his dream.

“I wanted to lead Marines and fly in support of them,” said Read.

As the airframes officer-in-charge, leading Marines is something Read has the chance to do daily. While the modest Read is reluctant to say he’s a better officer because of his enlisted experience, his Marines are not.

“We see him a lot, and I think that lets the Marines know he cares about them,” said Cpl. Nathan Furbee, VMFA-212 airframes mechanic and native of Canton, Ohio. “He takes a genuine interest in what we're doing.”

Praise for Read and his contributions to the squadron come from his subordinates as well.

“His calm demeanor is an asset to our squadron, and I predict he will continue to be successful,” said Maj. David Park, VMFA-212 operations officer and native of Los Angeles.

While Read accomplished his goal to become a pilot several years ago, his career hasn’t slowed down. Today when he’s in the seat of his F/A-18, he can peer out of the cockpit window with a smile on his face, knowing that he accomplished what he set out to do and that he’s on the path to success.

Last Updated:
08/09/2007, Eastern Daylight Time
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