CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan -- General Bernard Montgomery once said, “My own definition of leadership is this: the capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.”
While many people may have their own definitions of leadership, Montgomery describes a particular Marine noncommissioned officer serving with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 deployed to Camp Bastion, Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Born and raised in Navarre, Fla., Sgt. Josiah M. Fox was the first person in his family to become a United States Marine. Having previously served a tour in Iraq and a tour with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, this is his first deployment to Afghanistan.
The 26-year-old Floridian is an MV-22B Osprey crew chief with VMM-261, the Marine Corps aviation unit which has the honor and responsibility of being the first responder for casualty evacuations. As part of the aviation combat element with Regional Command (Southwest), VMM-261 offers medical aid to those who may require it within RC(SW)’s area of operation.
According to Fox, the MV-22Bs are a fast and stable platform to use for casualty evacuations. The aircraft allows for movement of more personnel, more room for medical aid and faster aerial transportation.
“From the time we get a casevac call, we can be off deck within 15 minutes and on our way to pick up the casualty,” said Fox. “That gives us 45 minutes for the ‘golden hour’ that is used for us to get to the casualty wherever they are in the AO. We have three corpsmen that ride with us, and we can land anywhere from next to a compound to in an open field.”
The “golden hour” refers to the hour immediately following a traumatic injury in which medical treatment to prevent irreversible internal damage and optimize the chance of survival is most effective. Medevac crews strive to deliver the wounded personnel to the nearest medical facility within this hour-long window, measured from the time the crews first receive the call.
We are on call 24/7, working in 12-hour shifts,” said Fox. “It is hard work and long hours. As a crew chief, we are responsible for everything throughout the cabin. We take care of troop movement from making sure everyone gets on and off the aircraft safely and strapped in properly, to providing security for the aircraft and pilots. We monitor the gauges inside to make sure everything is running smoothly. We scan the air space during flights to create a 360-degree view, basically providing eyes to the back of the aircraft for the pilots.”
While the pilots are the ones who fly the aircraft, it is the crew chiefs that help take care of and sustain the aircraft.
“Marine Corps crew chiefs are crew chiefs and mechanics,” said Fox. “We kind of have a dual hat. While we do have mechanics in the shop, we still have a lot of input when it comes to taking care of the planes and maintaining them, but we get to fly on them as well. We have a lot of pride in the planes because we get to work on them. Those are our planes. Our names are on them. The pilots’ names are on them. We are a very tight community, and we rely on each other as a crew.”
Captain Jonathan Hoy, an MV-22B Osprey pilot and flightline officer in charge with VMM-261, has flown with Fox as his crew chief many times.
“He is our top sergeant,” said Hoy, a Buffalo, N.Y. native. “He is an extremely experienced crew chief, and from a pilot’s perspective, having an experienced crew chief in the back (of the aircraft) means everything in the world. The MV-22 is incredibly complex; there is a lot we have to do in the cockpit, and the fact that he is a flyer and has the higher maintenance qualifications and technical skills comes in handy when we are troubleshooting through systems. It is a full-crew concept, so if we have questions or issues that come up we can ask him. He is our backup and safety net in the aircraft. There are a lot of situations that maybe I haven’t seen because I’m a younger pilot, and having someone like him who is experienced and has numerous flight hours as a crew chief, he can steer you straight and he does just that. He is everything you would expect out of a Marine noncommissioned officer. He is always the first one in and the last one out.”
A leader doesn’t just lead; they set the example for others to emulate and mentor those in their responsibility.
“He is a hard worker, outgoing, approachable and a likable person,” said Cpl. Christopher L. Morrison, a flightline mechanic with the unit and native of Greensboro, N.C. “He takes really good care of his Marines, and if there’s a problem, he’ll handle it. He is very patient, and you need patience in this job. Whenever you work on aircraft and with Marines, training them, getting them up to speed on their job and making them more proficient, it takes a lot of patience, and he really takes the time to teach people what they need to do. When it comes to flying, a lot of Marines look up to him, and the pilots really respect him for his experience and knowledge.”
The aircraft and crew are able to make one trip in half the amount of time compared to helicopters, potentially transporting up to a whole platoon in one plane.
“I love my job as a crew chief,” said Fox. “And I think we are making a huge difference with what we do. From picking up causalities to transporting them to the hospitals, we can do this effectively and efficiently as the first responders.”