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Why I Serve: Instructor Pilot Discovered Talent Early

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2004 – "I take great pride in knowing that I am doing my duty as an American protecting our freedoms," Marine Corps Maj. Brent Camron Reiffer said. "I have had the opportunity to travel to multiple countries and have confirmed that while our country has some issues, it is still the best on the planet."

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Marine Maj. Brent Camron Reiffer is a UH-1N helicopter instructor pilot with the Marine Corps Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One based at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz. The instructor pilot, who wanted to be a Marine since he was 10 years old, is now an Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The roots of Reiffer's American pride were put down early on.

"Back when I was 10 years old, I joined the Young Marines," said Reiffer. "I did really well and quickly learned that I was good at basic military stuff marching, rappelling, rafting, camping, patrolling, (and) following and giving orders."

It was then that he realized he wanted to be a Marine.

After graduating from East Kentwood High School in Grand Rapids, Mich., his hometown, Reiffer headed off for boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, Calif. A bachelor's degree in aviation management technology from Eastern Michigan University, Officer Candidate School in (1990) and flight school (1995-1997) followed before he went off to the fleet.

Reiffer is now a UH-1N helicopter instructor pilot with the Marine Corps Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One based at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz. He said his duties allow for exposure to "all the different backgrounds that make up Marine Corps aviation."

"Typically, an aviator will only get exposure to the other aircraft type communities during (weapons and tactics instructor courses)," Reiffer said. "I can talk to, and learn from, a wide range of Marines - from an FA-18 pilot to an airfield services officer to a low-altitude air defense officer - on a daily basis."

As an instructor pilot, he helps to instruct and certify all of the instructors in Marine Corps Aviation units. In addition to holding semiannual WTI courses, he said, his unit provides specific training called "Desert Talon" to units heading to Iraq.

As part of his responsibilities, Reiffer, who also serves as the assistant operations officer, plans for the WTI and Desert Talon courses.

While his job affords him the opportunities to lead and advance his career, it doesn't come without strings. Reiffer said that being away from his family both overseas and at home - has been the biggest sacrifice associated with his duty to his country.

"The length of time away from my children will never be able to be made up," he said.

Though the time may never be made up, Reiffer will have stories of his time away to share with his children ages 5, , 2, and 7 weeks - as they grow.

"Of all the various memories that I have of being in the Marine Corps, one that will always stay with me is the night I was in the jungle of the Philippines when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991 and the resulting aftermath," he said. "We dug ourselves and others out of the rain-soaked ash at Subic Bay Naval Base without running water, toilets (or) hot food for three weeks."

When faced with a situation like the one in the Philippines, it's Reiffer's pride and patriotism that get him through.

"I take great pride in knowing that while patriotism comes and goes with a lot of people, mine is deeply entrenched," he said. "When I retire, I can always look back and know that I contributed in numerous ways, always gave my best effort and served my country honorably."

Reiffer was activated with the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines during Desert Storm and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom Phase I. On March 26, 2003, during OIF-1, he piloted his aircraft to a hard landing. The crew suffered injuries, but all survived.

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