AL ASAD, Iraq -- At 15-years-old, Douglas Brown got a summer job at an Atlanta area theme park to be a cashier at an airbrush booth. Watching the artist create colorful designs sparked his own artistic talent. Little did he know that eight years later he would be using the skills he learned to show his appreciation to fellow Marines serving in Iraq.
Corporal Douglas Brown, an F/A-18 Hornet engine mechanic with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 and Mableton, Ga., native, has spent a bulk of his free time turning unusable aircraft parts into works of art for Marines around Al Asad.
“At first it was just a summer job,” Brown said. “Working there peeked my interest and I began trying it myself. In a few years I had worked my way up to lead artist.”
Before his airbrush painting career had a chance to really take off, Brown enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and left for basic training a week after graduating Pebble Brook High School in 1999.
“I always had a general interest in the military,” Brown said. “I decided I would join the reserves so I could go to college and still serve my country.”
After Marine Corps training and a semester in school, Brown returned to his airbrush stand and retained his position as the lead artist in 2000. After a while though, designing T-shirts got old and started to bore him.
In 2002, Brown traveled to Las Vegas to attend an airbrush convention. While sitting through an automotive airbrush class he developed a renewed interest in the art..
“The convention just got my juices flowing again,” Brown said. “Seeing how to paint objects other than a T-shirt or canvas was a real eye opener.”
Armed with the knowledge and drive to continue painting along with his skills as a jet aircraft mechanic, his two occupations came together for the first time in 2003. When a fellow Marine was transferred from MALS-42 to another unit aboard Naval Air Station, Atlanta, Brown painted his first aircraft part, a worn blade from the tail-rotor of an AH-1W Super Cobra as a parting gift.
“After that, word got around that I had a little bit of talent and I was being asked to paint on a more regular basis,” Brown said. “I like being able to do something that is unique and different. I can make objects seem to jump off whatever the surface is. I can do things you could never do with a pencil or paintbrush.”
Late last year, Brown, along with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 142 and a handful of MALS-42 Marines, received word of this deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I wanted to be here,” Brown said. “I wanted to see a different culture. When I was stateside I felt like I was sitting on the sidelines. In the U.S. you don’t really know how you contribute to the war. Here I can see how my work has a direct affect on the operations.”
Brown’s job is to perform intermediate maintenance to jet engines. He mostly repairs small malfunctions that could ground an aircraft.
“We play an important role in keeping the F/A-18s from two squadrons fully operational and mission ready,” Brown said.
Brown’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed with his superiors. Doing whatever he can to accomplish the mission is a big part of his work ethic.
“Brown comes in early and stays late,” said Sgt. Jerrami Jones, assistant noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the power plants division. “He does whatever needs to be done to help the entire shop accomplish its mission. He is one of my most experienced mechanics and is always willing to share his knowledge with the younger Marines.”
Between repairing engines, Brown has found time to show off his talent to his fellow Leathernecks.
“I told everyone in my shop what I could do. After I did a couple murals and other projects, people just started asking to have different pieces done,” Brown said.
Now Brown creates artwork for his squadron, fellow Marines and recently an out going commanding officer as a farewell gift. He is glad to be getting all the work. Being able to keep his skills sharp while deployed to Iraq isn’t something he thought would have the opportunity to do here.
“I’m grateful for any work I get,” Brown said. “I feel confident when I return home I will be able to step right back into my old job as an art director for a graphics company.”
Although known for his artistic flare, Brown’s first priority remains the maintenance of the engines used in the F/A-18 Hornets that are used to support the Marines on the ground and aid in making a brighter Iraq for all of its citizens. Without mechanics like Brown, the mission of the forward deployed 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing could never be accomplished. Keeping aircraft operational and ready for another mission is what drives Brown to excel and strive to make a difference.
*For more information about this story please e-mail Cpl. Alex Herron at email@example.com*