AL QAIM, Iraq -- When faced with challenges, Marines are renowned for their ability to adapt and overcome.
Staff Sgt. David A. Beaty, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369’s day crew maintenance controller in Al Qaim, has overcome countless maintenance and logistical challenges for more than two months.
While tackling these challenges, he has kept the Marines’ morale high and continuously ensured the squadron’s AH-1 Cobras and UH-1 Hueys are in the air supporting the Marines on the ground.
“I love being out here,” said Beaty, a Picket County, Tenn., native. “It’s a smaller detachment, our unit cohesion is real tight. There is just a total focus on the mission here.”
Beaty credits all the success of the detachment to the Marines who are on flightline, day and night, through heat and bitter cold, turning wrenches and keeping the aircraft flying.
“These guys pull off some amazing feats,” said Beaty. “They never whine or complain. Every day, they’re out there working hard, doing their jobs.”
One of the greatest challenges Beaty and the Gunfighters at Al Qaim face is accomplishing their mission without the use of a hangar. But, they said they receive tremendous support from the other units stationed there.
For example, Beaty said although they don’t have a hoist, other units have let them use their cranes.
The absence of a hangar also constantly exposes the Marines to the sand and dust kicked up when the Cobras and Hueys take off.
“The cold nights are more severe without a hangar,” said Beaty, who has been the maintenance controller for both day and night crews. “When it’s dark and cold, it’s a great deal harder to do the required maintenance. But, these Marines are getting the job done. Nothing matters to them except getting the birds in the air. I pass word in the meetings and everything works smoothly.”
Corporal Sami Babaidhan, a plane captain with the Gunfighters and a Portland, Ore., native, said Beaty keeps things interesting and keeps the working environment less stressful.
“He lightens everything up,” said Babaidhan, who currently works directly under Beaty. “He gets the mission done, without putting unneeded stress on us. I give him all the credit for how successful we have been. He coordinates everything and delegates jobs. He busts his (back) all day.”
Babaidhan, who has worked with Beaty for more than a year, said Beaty never rushes his Marines and enables them to make sure everything is done right.
“He keeps everyone together, and everything running smoothly,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy McCoy, avionics staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge with the Gunfighters at Al Qaim, and a Montclair, Calif., native. “He maintains liaison with the Marines at Taqqadum and the Marine aviation logistics squadrons, and ensures all of the aircraft meet the flight schedule while being properly maintained.”
McCoy said the Marines appreciate Beaty’s hard work and character.
“For his birthday, some of the junior Marines had the (dinning facility) bake a special cake for him,” said McCoy. “That morning we serenaded him with song while he was in the shower. He acted embarrassed about it all, but you could tell he was impressed by what the Marines did for him.”
Lance Cpl. Doug Johnson, an ordnanceman with the Gunfighters and a Houston native, said Beaty gets excited when the Marines do a good job, and he really cares about getting the birds in the air.
“He follows up with you and what you’re doing,” said Johnson. “The mission is the first thing on his mind, and he does whatever he can to help you get it done.”
Major John Barranco, the officer-in-charge of the Gunfighters’ detachment at Al Qaim and a Boston native, said maintenance across the board has been outstanding, and he credits Beaty for much of the success.
“We have been at a full sprint operationally since we got here, and there has never been a drop in the Marines’ intensity,” said Barranco. “It’s amazing how focused Beaty is able to keep all of the Marines. His proficiency is incredible. He’s a real smart guy who’s always a step ahead, and he identifies problems before they even happen.”
Beaty gives all the credit for the Gunfighters’ successes to his Marines, and he stressed the more challenges they face, the more pride they take in the work they do.
“We aren’t kicking down any doors,” said Beaty. “But, we face unique and complicated aviation challenges and we are doing a great job keeping these birds in the air. One of the biggest challenges we have faced was recovering a downed aircraft in the field. Immediately, our Marines volunteered to go outside the wire and help bring the bird home. These Marines do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.”
The Gunfighters have seen combat on almost a daily basis supporting operations from Al Qaim. Beaty said the Gunfighters’ Cobras and Hueys have dropped more ordnance than any of the other Cobras and Hueys in Iraq.
“When I leave Al Qaim, I’ll miss the tight unit cohesion,” said Beaty. “All the guys I’m working with, even the pilots, work together closely. There is a great deal more teamwork here than at bigger bases where you have more hands in the pot. Here, all we have is each other.”