AL ASAD, Iraq -- “If blessed with an ability, we have the responsibility of utilizing that ability,” said Maj. Alex K. Fulford, an AH-1W “Cobra” pilot with Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 167. Fulford, who has always been a gifted painter and artist, uses his gifts to motivate the Marines around him.
While deployed to Al Asad, Iraq he was asked to paint HML/A-167’s squadron logo on one of the concaving barriers protecting the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) headquarters building Feb. 7. The barriers are decorated with the logos and emblems of units and squadrons who have been deployed to Al Asad.
Fulford’s talent was discovered by others as a young pilot. He was given the call sign “Sketch” and now his art work can be viewed in Iraq, at HML/A hangars in the United States, and on the noses of many helicopters.
“I was available for two months back in 1998 to paint murals at the squadron when I was with HML/A-269,” said Fulford.
Although he has painted on over a dozen CH-46s, several CH-53s, and about half a dozen UH-1 “Hueys” and AH-1s, he has a hard time deciding which painting is his favorite.
“I did nose art on a “Cobra” that was modeled after my wife. I painted one at Korean Village that I really like. It’s an angel looking down from clouds with a sword in her hand and Psalms 91. Between that and the painting modeled after my wife are my favorites,” he said.
The favorite painting among the Marines of ‘167 deployed to Al Asad is the art of the Iron Maiden mascot “Eddie” as a Marine non-commissioned officer which faces you as you walk into the HML/A headquarters building, according to 1st Lt. Alan C. Dinsdale, a “Cobra” pilot.
“While Maj. Fulford is working on a painting, the Marines will come out to see his progress,” said Dinsdale. “The Marines really like his stuff.”
According to Fulford, the current deployment has gone slow but well. Some pilots have had the opportunity to engage hostile forces. The squadron has also performed several immediate casualty evacuations with “Huey’s,” of which all have been successful.
“There’s a great satisfaction getting to fire and help,” said Fulford. “Sometimes we show up and all goes quiet. Just having rotors overhead is deterrence.”
Fulford has used his artistic skills for work many times, but he also uses his painting skills to help Marines and families around him.
“A couple of the guys I’ve worked with have had me design tattoos for them. I’ve also painted quite a few kids rooms for neighbors, which is fun,” he said.
Getting Fulford to pick favorites between his love for flying and his love for painting isn’t easy.
“Painting I can do for the rest of my life, flying I can do for only a short while,” he said. “When it’s time, I will hang up my wings. I can paint until I’m old and gray. It’s been fun flying “Cobras” though and being able to shoot back.”