AL ASAD, Iraq -- Since December 1997, he has flown off the coast of Macedonia and over the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, during four deployments. He has progressed from a lance corporal to a sergeant who holds all the flight qualifications and designations of the CH-46 Sea Knight. He is trusted as the most dependable crew chief instructor by his squadron’s commanding officer.
Sergeant Daniel Wilson, a quality assurance representative with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266, is currently serving in a staff noncommissioned officer billet and represents the Fighting Griffins for combat meritorious staff sergeant at the Marine Expeditionary Force level. He has already completed the competition in the Marine Aircraft Group and Marine Aircraft Wing levels at Al Asad, Iraq.
“Ever since I got to the fleet, I’ve been surrounded by good Marines who have taught me a great deal,” said Wilson, an Allen Park, Mich., native. “They wouldn’t let me fly until I could turn a wrench, and now I’m filling a mechanics billet. As a crew chief, I’ve flown more than 2,000 hours, and more than 300 have been in Iraq.”
Wilson said the best time he spent here was when he was stationed at Al Qaim supporting Operation Steel Curtain. At Al Qaim, he participated in troop movements, casualty evacuation and supply missions for more than a month with a high operational tempo.
“I loved doing my job and supporting the Marines on the ground,” said Wilson. “The best feeling was flying hot food out to the Marines on Christmas. We took food to the outskirts of Fallujah, and a couple different places around Al Qaim. You could tell the Marines really appreciated it.”
Wilson said he loves doing what he has been trained to do in a combat environment and wants the added responsibilities and bigger impact that comes along with being a SNCO.
“Not only is Wilson ready for the responsibilities of serving as a SNCO, he is already employed that way,” said Lt. Col. Joseph E. George, the commanding officer of HMM-266 and a Norfolk, Va., native. “As a crew chief, Wilson is as hard as nails. He runs circles around the Energizer bunny. In our preparations for this deployment, we required quite a bit of training for new crew chiefs and aerial gunner observers. Wilson was the go to instructor for all of that training. We deployed to Savannah, Ga., to use the gunnery ranges and then to Yuma, Ariz., for Exercise Desert Talon where we executed gunnery training, night vision goggles syllabus training and tactics training. He flew every day, he’s unstoppable.”
The quality assurance division is where the most experienced and senior SNCO typically serves in a squadron.
“Since each one of the maintenance divisions are led by a SNCO, the QAR is responsible for inspecting their work and maintenance practices,” said George. “The QARs must be able to approach the SNCOIC to correct deficiencies and inspect for proper performance of maintenance actions.”
Gunnery Sgt. Jeffrey Oakley, the quality assurance division chief with HMM-266, and an Orlando native, said Wilson is the type of Marine who leads by example and always strives to be the best at everything.
“Wilson representing HMM-266 for the MEF Meritorious Staff Sergeant Board was a no brainer,” said Oakley. “Not only does he already serve in a billet of a SNCO, he’s the one guy who always takes on the toughest of tasks. He is the only certified tail gunner weapons instructor trainer in our unit. He’s all about doing the right thing and leading from the front.”
Oakley said Wilson is a full systems QAR, meaning he is the guy you can ask the hardest questions for all aspects of maintenance, and he will find the answers.
“He has what it takes to be tasked with the highest of responsibilities as a crew chief instructor,” said Oakley. ”Wilson is ready to be a SNCO and has been for some time. Wilson has been doing the job of a SNCO by leading the Marines in the flight line division. He has proven that he has what it takes to be at the tip of the spear.”
Gunnery Sgt. Franklin W. Barnes Jr., the quality assurance department assistance SNCOIC, and a Suffolk, Va., native, described Wilson as a motivator, a leader, a teacher and an all around outstanding Marine.
“Wilson is a go to Marine throughout the maintenance department,” said Barnes. “As a weapons and tactics instructor, he’s able to teach the weapons system on the CH-46 to the younger crew chiefs within the Fighting Griffins.”
Barnes said Wilson’s ability to compete at the MEF level gives every Marine in the Fighting Griffins a sense of pride.
Wilson credits all this accomplishments to the SNCOs who taught him every single piece of the CH-46 and how to be a Marine. Although he loves deploying, he said it’s hard being away from his 4-year-old son Kenneth and 2-year-old daughter Sharon and not being there to watch them grow up. But, he said ever since he was a child he’s wanted to be in the military, and he’s glad to be here with the best.
“When I heard that there would be competition for meritorious staff sergeant, I knew there was no need for a squadron board,” said George. “Wilson is hands down the most knowledgeable and valuable sergeant in the squadron. He’s an expert on the entire aircraft. He flies as a crew chief, understands how to repair all the systems, and he sought this knowledge on his own. He is an expert on the CH-46E because he works hard.”
George said when Wilson was a young crew chief, he would not walk away from any aircraft discrepancy until he was satisfied that it was fully repaired. Now, through his vast experience and knowledge, Wilson will be able to serve capably as a staff sergeant, said George.