AL ASAD, Iraq -- Like many Marines, the Moonlighters of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 764 were troubled when they saw the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.
As a reserve unit, HMM-764 had more Marines directly affected by the tragedy than most. One noncommissioned officer immediately noticed the change in one of his Marines, and decided to take action.
“She worked perfectly at her job,” said Sgt. Andrew W. Oderman, the NCOIC of the squadron’s operations office. “But you could see the look of concern on her face. That motivated me more than anything else.”
But motivated to do what? Oderman and the rest of his squadron were thousands of miles away, and by the time they returned home, the relief and clean up efforts would be almost complete. Because HMM-764 couldn’t get directly involved, they decided to make a monetary donation.
“We thought donating to the Red Cross would ensure help goes to the people who need it,” said Odermann, a Tampa, Fla., native.
So Odermann, with the help of others in his work section, started a drive within the squadron to donate to the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. Soon, HMM-764 will donate more than $600 to the organization.
The entire squadron was behind the effort. At a promotions ceremony Sept. 1, the squadron sergeant major addressed the unit and asked for support. After that, Marines from all sections of the unit stepped up to the plate.
“Our goals would not have been realized without every Marine in this squadron,” he said. “Marines were constantly asking us how they could donate.”
At the outset of the fund-raising drive, Odermann and others set what they considered a realistic mark, a mark far below the eventual total.
“Our original goal was $500,” he said. “We had an extreme amount of support from the unit. Marines are all about helping people, but I was still impressed at our ability to pass the goal.”
As a medium helicopter squadron, the Moonlighters fly multiple combat missions each day. Despite the distraction provided by the hurricane and the desire to help, HMM-764 never lost sight of the task at hand.
“There was a lot of concern, but our Marines held up pretty well,” said Staff Sgt. Brandi K. Webre, the squadron operations chief and La Place, La., native. “We performed and carried on as we should.”
“It all falls back to the basic principle of being a Marine,” said Odermann. “Regardless of what goes on at home, we will continue to accomplish the mission.”
Corporal John W. McCracken, a Mt. Pleasant, Mich., native, helped Odermann organize the effort. He said he just wanted to raise the morale of those in the squadron directly affected by the tragedy.
“We did it because we all take care of our own,” he said. “Marines do that.”