AL TAQADDUM, Iraq -- After graduating Camden County High School in 1994 Sgt. Valerie Belue asked her father his thoughts about her joining the Marine Corps. The 25-year Navy veteran convinced her to get her degree before joining the military. Not long after, she left home to attend Brenau Women’s College near Atlanta.
After graduating in 1998 with a degree in history and political science she held many odd jobs including commercial and residential heating and air conditioning repair.
In 2000 Belue returned to her original idea of joining the Marine Corps and knew exactly what she wanted to do.
“I like the structured regimen of the military,” Belue said. “I am also a big history buff and the Marine Corps is a big part of military history.”
With a bachelor’s degree, her father was shocked to hear she had enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve to become a UH-1N Huey crew chief.
“I just didn’t want to be an officer,” she said. “Being a crew chief gives me the best of both worlds. I get to fly and turn wrenches on the aircraft.”
Picking the Huey was no accident for Belue either. She chose the Huey from the start of her career.
“The Huey is capable of performing a lot of different missions and is a very distinct aircraft,” Belue said. “Close air support, search and rescue and almost any combat operation. It can do a little bit of everything.”
After boot camp and initial training Belue reported to her reserve unit, Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 in Naval Air Station Atlanta.
“I tried being a reserve Marine, but one weekend a month wasn’t enough. I wanted to be around the Marine Corps more,” said the St. Marys, Ga., native. “I decided to become and activated reservist so I could be in the Marine Corps full time and keep my family in Atlanta.”
Belue’s husband, who is a former Marine flightline mechanic, now teaches in the Atlanta area and cares for their two dogs. Her intense deployment schedule is a challenge for her family but nothing they can’t handle.
Belue just returned stateside after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in September 2004. In February she deployed again with the Coyotes of Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 775.
“Being gone so much is hard,” Belue said. “Being away is easier this deployment, but it still is a challenge. The family separation is always hard but I’m doing something I love, so he understands. When he was in the Marine Corps he deployed a lot too. Now he gets to see the other side of a deployment by staying home.”
Belue’s current deployment is similar to what she did last year, but still takes the time to learn more and seize opportunities to become more efficient at her job. She knows that each time her aircraft lifts off, the danger of combat exists.
“It’s great to be here and use my training,” said Belue. “Working at a faster tempo is also a great learning experience. Being able to work efficiently and smartly is key here. It is a whole different mindset than when we’re back in the rear.”
Belue’s enthusiasm to fly any mission at any time and work until the job is done has made an impression on her leadership and peers alike.
“Belue is a hard worker. She is very dedicated to her job,” said Master Sgt. Michael Mikkelson a crew chief with HML/A-775. “She will stay at work until whatever maintenance task she is working on is completed. She is very proficient and knows her stuff, but is always willing to learn from anyone who may have a different way of doing things.”
Whether she is flying a close air support mission or repairing one of the helicopters, Belue is dedicated to her job. She sets a prime example for others to follow and is dedicated to the mission.
*For more information about this story please contact Cpl. Herron at firstname.lastname@example.org*