06.14.2016 -- "The strong Marines will stay the course and the weak will be weeded out," said Sgt. Ryan Hetu, Marine Corps Aviation Association Air Crewmen of the Year.
Sgt. Ryan Hetu, a crew chief instructor with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron, earned the award for “initiative, perseverance, and total dedication to duty,” according to his award citation.
Hetu, a native of Pittsfield, New Jersey, earned the respect of his superiors even when he was a junior Marine.
"I first met Sgt. Hetu in Afghanistan around August 2011," said Staff Sgt. Asher. “I was a sergeant and he was a lance corporal.”
Asher’s squadron was turning over with Hetu’s, and he joined him for a flight.
“After the flight, I remember thinking, 'I wish I had 20 more Marines like this kid...'" said Asher. "I didn't tell him that, of course. As far as he knew, he was the worst CH-53E crew chief the world had ever coughed up. It only took me about 30 minutes to gain an abnormal amount of respect for a new guy."
Staff Sgt. Joel G. Asher is a crew chief instructor at MAWT-1, Marine Corps Training and Education Command. He went on to describe Hetu as "tireless" and "a human-sized energizer bunny."
This was not the only mentor that Hetu had. Gunnery Sgt. Jesse Reed, a crew chief with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, spoke of Hetu's dedication.
"The one thing that sticks out the most is when he was under 30 days until he [transferred], and a junior Marine came to him with an issue on promotion," said Reed. "Sgt. Hetu could have just sent this Marine to another NCO. Hetu did the research, spent the time, and put together a case on why this Marine should not be getting non-recommended for promotion."
"The Marines come first,” said Hetu. “It is very easy to forget something that simple and to harp only on the unit's mission. But if the Marines are looked after and they are treated as men, not just bodies, then the mission will take care of itself."
Hetu took the case to the squadron's sergeant major. After reviewing the information Hetu brought, the sergeant major forwarded it to the commanding officer. In the end, the CO found the non-rec unjustified and promoted the Marine.
Reed said the incident "didn't make him any friends in the ranks above him, but he did what was right by the Marine."
"This displayed what I think every good leader has: courage, wisdom, tact, dedication, and most of all, the trust of his Marines," said Reed.
For Hetu, trust was the product of the unselfishness he so often demonstrated to his Marines, and unselfishness -- in an ironic way -- was the trait that earned his distinction.