AL ASAD, Iraq -- He went from helping drivers save 15 percent or more on car insurance to helping squadrons save time getting jets back in the fight.
Corporal Brandon T. Wellman had to put his job as an insurance agent on hold when his unit was activated and deployed here to support the mission of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
A radar technician for F/A-18A+ Hornets, Wellman is temporarily serving with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 (Reinforced). His parent command, MALS-42, is a reserve squadron based at Naval Air Station Atlanta, Marietta, Ga.
“It’s good to actually be doing something with the Corps, not just working on the aircraft during our annual training or weekends,” he said. “I finally get to do what I signed up for.”
Wellman, 23, is a 2000 graduate of Hawkinsville High School in Hawkinsville, Ga. He joined the Marine Corps in June 2000 and after graduating from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., attended Marine Combat Training at Camp Geiger, N.C.
After completing an avionics course in NAS Pensacola, Fla., he reported to NAS Lemoore, Calif., to learn rapid tests and repairs of the F/A-18 weapons radar.
Done with all his training and schools, Wellman joined the “War Hammers” of MALS-42 in July 2001 and began providing aviation logistics support to Marine aircraft squadrons two weeks in the summertime and two days out of every month.
After six months doing this he began working as a recruiters’ aid in Warner Robins, Ga., and was meritoriously promoted to his current rank. Twenty-five months later he returned to Marietta. To support his family he took a job in the sales department of the Government Employees Insurance Company, where he takes company calls and counsels callers on how auto insurance works and how to make it meet their needs.
When his unit was activated in January he was sent to NAS Forth Worth, Texas, for training in the Consolidated Automated Support System, the world’s largest military avionics automated test program, and once he completed the training he went back to Marietta and deployed to Iraq.
In a couple of months, the unit went from being a reserve squadron to an activated unit reinforcing an aviation logistics squadron serving in Iraq. “That’s what separates the Marine Corps reserves from all of the other services,” said Wellman. “We were activated in January and we’re already here. Other services would have taken months to prepare, we’re always ready.”
Leaving MALS-42 and joining MALS-26 (Rein) has been a seamless process, he said. “It was an easy transition, a grape can be yellow or purple but it’s still a grape. The real transition was going from civilian to Marine; from sitting behind a computer selling insurance to fixing aircraft.”
Staff Sgt. Jamie A. Yerges, staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Wellman, was one of his instructors once and considers him integral to the squadron’s fixed-wing support element.
“I’m able to see Corporal Wellman use his abilities to make a direct impact in a combat support role,” said Yerges, supervisor of the work center in which components such as radars and cockpit displays are repaired and Wellsboro, Pa., native. “I am impressed to see how he’s honed the basic skills I taught him in 2001.”
Married and with a 1-year-old son, Wellman said he misses being with his family, but understands he has a job to do. “You go from being with them every day, watching him grow and then you’re gone for several months. What makes it easy is that once he gets older I’ll be able to tell him I was here serving our country and helping liberate Iraq.”
Fixing electronic components for fighter jets here may take longer than a 15-minute call, but Wellman’s dedication to the mission keeps him excited to do it.
“I stay busy at work, keep my mind on the gear and I stay concentrated,” he said. “All we worry about is making sure the birds fly.”