AL ASAD, Iraq -- Corporal Nicole Anderson, avionics technician, Marine Light /Attack Helicopter Squadron 269, began making her rounds in January to family and friends with her 2-year-old son before she deployed to Iraq. As the day to depart grew near she began to pack while her son curiously looked on, wondering what was happening.
It all started to make sense when young Damon Anderson and his grandfather, who is taking care of him during the deployment, drove the Marine to where her unit would depart Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C., for the Middle East. First the seabags were loaded, then a big hug from his mother. Anderson was going on a trip and she wouldn’t return to him for several months.
“When I said good-bye to Damon, he started to cry,” the Laurel, Md. native said. “It’s tough but I know he is in good hands. I know this is good for us. With this experience I get more hands on work with the aircraft. Hopefully, I can get a similar job when I get out of the Marine Corps.”
Anderson extended her contract to take part in the Gunrunners’ deployment after transferring to the unit. Her original squadron deployed while she was pregnant.
“Once I transferred to the Gunrunners, I wanted to stay with this unit,” Anderson said. “The Gunrunners grew on me. It is a good unit to be a part of.”
When the time came for the squadron to deploy, Anderson had a choice. She was scheduled to return to her original unit and leave the Marine Corps this fall, but chose to stay with the HML/A-269 for this deployment to Iraq.
“If Corporal Anderson would not have deployed with us, then she would have spent her entire five years in the Marine Corps without ever deploying and I didn’t want her to miss out on that experience,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jeff A. Desjadins, avionics officer, HML/A-269. “When the time came to decide if she wanted to stay with the Gunrunners or not, I gave her the pros and cons of deploying with us. After all that, she still wanted to go. That was awesome. I know how hard it is to deploy when you have kids and being a single parent can only make things that much tougher.”
Anderson is proud of the work she is doing in Iraq and understands what her role here is.
“I have a small, but important part in supporting the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing,” Anderson said. “I do what I have to do to accomplish my mission so we can achieve the overall goals of the 2nd MAW. If our aircraft are mission ready, then the wing can use our unit to its fullest capability and I have done my job.”
Many of the avionics Marines in Anderson’s shop see how dedicated she is to HML/A-269.
“She didn’t have to come out here,” said Cpl. Aundrey Owens, avionics technician, HML/A-269 and Erie, Pa., native. “It took a lot of courage to leave her child to be here. I’m glad she came here, because she is one of our most knowledgeable Marines who makes sure things get done right the first time.”
Anderson’s hard work and thirst to excel show through and her supervisors notice how much having her around helps them accomplish their mission.
“She is an outstanding asset to our team,” said Sgt. Steven Farr, avionics work center supervisor and Daytona Beach, Fla., native. “She is always the first to volunteer. Regardless of the task she stands out from her peers, just by her sheer willingness to do the job others aren’t.”
With all the good work Anderson is doing in Al Asad, she still constantly thinks about her son.
“It’s tough,” Anderson said. “I know Damon is being taken care of. He is in good hands. I’m sure it won’t be so bad in a few months, but I still worry and miss him.”