I entered the US Marine Corps on August 29, 1972 with an ‘Aviation Guarantee’ and the desire to be an Aircraft Structural Mechanic. The guarantee did not offer me a specific job (MOS). It only guaranteed that I would be in ‘aviation’. I could have been designated to work in anything from avionics, to hydraulics, to ground support equipment (ugh!!). However, I lucked out and got MOS 6042 – Aircraft Structural Mechanic! (The Marines have changed their MOS listings since 1972 so that MOS 6042 now represents a different job classification).
The 3 month long training for this MOS was conducted at Naval Air Station (NAS), Millington, Tennessee where both Marines and Navy personnel trained together. Every class in the Aircraft Structural Mechanic course ended with one Sailor and one Marine being honored with top academic standing within their respective service branch. One of those two was then awarded ‘Class Honorman’ status for acheiving the highest class academic standing between the two branches. While there was always friendly ‘competition’ between the Marines and the Navy in this course, the Marines were not necessarily noted for their high academic standings and, up to this point, no Marine had ever graduated as ‘Class Honorman’. Until PFC Mike O’Neill graduated. I blew the Navy away and walked away with the ‘Class Honorman’ award.
In recognition of this first ever achievement, I was awarded a meritorious promotion to Lance Corporal (E-3) only 2 weeks after having received a time-in-grade promotion to Private First Class (PFC E-2). I also received a visit from the liason to the Marine Corps Presidential Helicopter Squadron, HMX-1. He proceeded to offer me an invitiation to come and work for the President. My other option was assignment to an airwing squadron with the expectation of deployment to Viet Nam. While I did not fear Nam duty, I figured that working for the President in the nations capital would be a more ‘opportunistic’ path to take! I accepted the invitation.
After some transitional duty time at both Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point and MCAS New River, I reported for duty at MCAS Quantico, Virginia in late spring 1973.