AL ASAD, Iraq - -- Three Marines attached to Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 2 were recently selected to receive the Navy and Marine Association Leadership Award.
The award recognizes the most outstanding company grade officers and enlisted Marines at each regiment or headquarters level unit within the operating forces.
Corporal Claywood Baker, an administration noncommissioned officer, Gunnery Sgt. Michael Montoya, the Tactical Air Command Center security guard commander and Capt. Howard Mariott, an aviation logistics division watch officer were all nominated by their commanding officer, Lt. Col. Todd Schlund for their demonstration of outstanding leadership to Marines throughout the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
“I put a lot of thought into my nominations for this award,” said Schlund, a Mt. Vernon, S.D., native. “I took a look at all of our outstanding Marines and picked the ones that exemplified what a Marine leader should be.”
Upon hearing the news, the Marines all reacted in the same way. “A pretty humbling experience is the only way to describe it,” said Mariott.
“To be recognized in this peer group and to be a part of a forward deployed unit is a real honor,” said the McAlister, Okla., native. “I’ve always tried to lead from the front and set a good example for the junior troops; to have the commanding officer notice that is really special.”
“Although I’ve only known Capt. Mariott for the past six months, he has demonstrated what a good leader should be,” Schlund said. “He remains positive in the face of adversity and leads by example.”
For the staff noncommissioned officer ranks, Montoya’s name is one that Schlund kept coming back to while sifting through the many Marines worthy of this award.
“We have a lot of great staff noncommissioned officers in Deuce,” Schlund said. “Montoya epitomizes everything about what a Marine is. From his look to the way he carries himself he is the total Marine.”
Montoya is in charge of a security team that is made up of 2nd MAW Marines and U.S. Army soldiers.
“We have had every person that has been augmented to Gunnery Sgt. Montoya’s security team ask if they could stay after their time was up,” Schlund said. “He takes his crew of Marines, sailors and soldiers and keeps them motivated to do an excellent job. Whenever they are running low on personnel, he isn’t afraid to stand at a post as well. He looks after his Marines and does whatever is necessary to accomplish the mission. That is leadership.”
For Montoya, this award isn’t just a reflection on him, but on his Marines and the work they do.
“To be an outstanding leader you must first have outstanding Marines to lead,” said Montoya, a Virginia Beach, Va., native. “This award is a direct reflection of the Marines in my charge and the hard work they do day in and day out. I am thankful, but not for being recognized as an outstanding leader, but to the Marines for affording me the opportunity to lead them.”
Along with Montoya and Mariott, Baker was nominated for the award in the noncommissioned officer category. Baker has overcome some amazing adversity to become part of the forward deployed MWHS-2.
Baker was scheduled to deploy in February, but was diagnosed with lung disease and the beginning stages of emphysema that deprived him of the opportunity to deploy. After treatment and recently receiving a clean bill of health, he deployed for the second half of the deployment.
“Corporal Baker busted his butt while stateside,” Schlund said. “He could’ve easily missed work and just concentrated on how to cope with his illness, but he didn’t. He came into work sick and helped us out tremendously. For the intestinal fortitude of not letting his physical problems get in the way of his devotion to the Corps and providing outstanding support to the squadron deployed and stateside I nominated him. He thought of everyone else above himself and that is what leadership is all about.”
All three of these Marines have a common thread that links them together and makes them outstanding leaders of Marines, according to Schlund.
“All of these Marines put their unit above self,” he said. “They think of their fellow Marines before worrying about their well being.”
With Marines like these leading the way for MWHS-2, the squadron will continue the success they have experienced during the first half of their deployment until they all return home in February 2006 and conclude the squadron’s first deployment into a combat zone.
*For more information about this story please e-mail Cpl. Alex Herron at email@example.com*