Photo Information

AL ASAD, Iraq - Sergeant Douglas Acero an avionics technician with Marine Attack Squadron 311 stands in front of an AV-8B Harrier here April 29. Acero along with his fellow ?Tomcats? of VMA-311 are scheduled to return to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., in May after a seven-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Photo by Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Fighter jet mech shares unique perspective of war

29 Apr 2005 | Cpl. C. Alex Herron

Every Marine a Rifleman. This phrase has special meaning for Sgt. Douglas Acero, an avionics technician serving with Marine Attack Squadron 311 from Yuma, Ariz.

In November, after the battle of Fallujah, the fighter jet mechanic was plucked from his unit here and attached to Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, for two months. Many of the units here sent Marines to assist with the rebuilding of the city. Acero was one of two ‘Tomcats’ selected to augment the ground war at that time.

He was sent to Fallujah to help the city’s thousands of residents as they started to rebuild their war torn city.  While with 1/3, Acero took part in patrols and raids through the city, gaining a unique view of how infantry Marines operate.

“I was able to get a look at the ‘other side,’” said Acero, originally from Sugar Land, Texas. “I was able to take part in all sorts of missions while in Fallujah.  We handed out food and water while providing medical aid to those who needed it.  I was able to take part in raids looking for insurgents and weapons caches.”

While patrolling the streets, Acero was reminded of his home in Texas where his mom and dad are constantly worrying about him while he is deployed to Iraq.

“When we would search homes I noticed photos on the walls and how they were organized. I realized that someone lived here, but we had [to go] through because insurgents used the vacant homes to hide their activities,” said the 2001 Clements High School graduate.

Being part of an infantry squad opened Acero’s eyes to why his job with VMA-311 is so important.  Because of his work on Harriers, Marines on the ground have extra support while searching through the cities on patrols.

“Seeing the firepower of our jets is amazing,” Acero said.  “If it weren’t for the mechanics who get our birds ready for action, the grunts wouldn’t have the support they need to successfully accomplish their mission.  [While serving with the infantry in November], having our birds over us was very reassuring.  Knowing the pilots who were in the cockpit made me feel like I had a unique perspective most aircraft mechanics don’t get to see.”

Acero said the best part of being in Fallujah with the infantry was being able to see all of the aspects of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force come together and the skills learned at Marine Combat Training work.

Born on July 12, 1982, Acero grew up around aviation.  While his mother stayed home to take care of him and his younger sister, his father worked as a pilot with Southwest Airlines .  Later, Acero Sr. recognized his family needed him home more so he started work as an aircraft mechanic.

“I remember being around aviation at a young age,” Acero said.  “My dad would take me to work with him and I would sit and watch him and his coworkers work on jet engines for hours.”

While growing up Acero knew he wanted to serve his country, but was never sure about which service he would join.

“I always knew I would join the military,” he said. “During my four years of Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps in high school, I caught the Marine Corps ‘bug.’  The summer after I graduated high school, I went directly to boot camp to begin my journey as a United States Marine.”

After graduating from basic training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif., in September 2001, Acero reported to Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Fla., for basic electrician school.

“The school in Pensacola taught me basic electronics,” Acero said. “It wasn’t until I reported to Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., in April 2002 that I learned the electrical systems for the AV-8B Harrier.”

It took over a year for him to complete all of his avionics training.  It wasn’t until August 2002 when he reported to his present unit, VMA-311.  

While with the ‘Tomcats,’ Acero has played a part in every aspect of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  In January 2003, Acero deployed with VMA-311 aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard (an amphibious assault ship used as a landing platform at sea) where the unit supported the initial war effort for six months.  Upon their return, the Tomcats prepared for a deployment to Afghanistan; those orders were later changed to Iraq, and in November 2004, they returned in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Deploying is what I signed up to do,” Acero said.  “I wanted to be a part of what is going on in the world, not just watching it on television.”

Being a part of major world events is exactly what Acero has done.  He has been in a unique position to see the war from the ground side and the air side.  Acero has a keen understanding of how each compliments the other and he knows all Marines work together to accomplish one goal.

When Acero returns to Yuma in a few weeks he will share his experiences with a broader understanding of how the Marine Corps works.  Every Marine a Rifleman isn’t just a slogan--it’s a reality Sgt. Douglas Acero lives by.


-For more information on this story please contact Cpl. Herron at herronca@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil-