AL ASAD, Iraq - -- In the small rural towns of Washington County, Ohio the chances of fellow residents serving in the military in the same place overseas may seem almost unheard of. But from that county of almost 64,000, three Marines are contributing to the Global War on Terror from the same unit.
For the Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 the Washington County influence can be felt from the top. The commanding officer, Lt. Col. Jay Johnson, a 1982 graduate of Warren High School is in his second year as the Workhorses’ highest ranking Marine. Two of his junior Marines, Lance Cpls. Christopher McCutcheon, a 2002 graduate of Frontier High School and Lincoln Echard, a 2002 graduate of Warren High School both joined MWSS-271 after their initial training in 2003.
“It is comforting to know that our [commanding officer] came from the same area as we did,” said McCutcheon, a crash crewman with the squadron’s Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting section. “We followed the same path he started blazing 20 years ago.”
After graduating high school, Johnson enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1983 and became a combat engineer. Shortly after, he was accepted for a commissioning program and joined the officer ranks in 1986.
Coming from a rural county filled with factories and farmland, all three men had the courage to step out of their community to join the Marine Corps.
“For these men to join the Marine Corps they had to go against the normal customs,” Johnson said. “There weren’t a lot of people jumping to join the military right out of high school like we did. We come from an area that generations of families work in the factories along the Ohio River. We’re from a collection of small blue collar towns that work hard and keep a pretty laid back lifestyle.”
Now the three Marines are together, part of a fight of global proportions. Each Marine takes their job seriously and understands the important work they do.
“I feel like I have accomplished a lot out here,” said Echard, a bulk fuel specialist with the squadron’s fuels division. “I feel like I am able to contribute to the fight and can complete any task given to me.”
“I have one of the jobs that you’re glad I’m not busy,” McCutcheon said. “We will be there to ensure everyone’s safety, from the pilot to the personnel on the ground.”
McCutcheon’s job requires him to always be on the alert if something on the flightline were to go awry. If the time comes for McCutcheon and his fellow crash crewmen to kick it into high gear they know they are responsible for rescuing anyone put in harms way.
The senior Washington native, Johnson, is proud of all his Marines and the way they have preformed here.
“In my 22 years, this is my first tour with the wing. Without a doubt Marine wing support squadrons are the most powerful units in the Marine Corps,” Johnson said. “We have our hand in a little of everything. We support Al Asad, as well as two forward operating bases. The entire squadron lives up to the name Workhorses.”
Along with the entire squadron’s performance, Johnson is excited to see his hometown turn out such great men.
“It is good to see a legacy of Washington County Marines,” Johnson said. “These guys are the future staff noncommissioned officers or warrant officers of the Marine Corps. It is great to know as I near the time when I hang up my holster that we have such great Marines to follow in my footsteps. These Marines have that fighting spirit. They are smarter than I was their age and know more about how the Marine Corps works which will help them in the future.”
With the three Washington Marines preparing to conclude a successful combat deployment, they will surely all return home and remember the unique opportunity they had to serve with their brothers at arms from Washington County.
*For more information about this story please e-mail Cpl. Alex Herron at firstname.lastname@example.org*