NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas --
“Why did you join the Marine Corps?” A question that has been asked by generations of Marines, a question which the answer is already known, yet we still choose to ask anyways.
“I wanted to do something more with my life.”
Those are the words of Staff Sgt. Lauren Song, a native of Aurora, Colorado, now stationed with Marine Transport Squadron 1, Marine Aircraft Group 41, Marine Forces Reserve, in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I figured the Marine Corps would be the biggest challenge out of all the branches and it has not disappointed in that aspect,” said Song with a laugh, “But I’ve enjoyed it so far.”
Song joined the Marine Corps in October 2015, eventually being assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Squadron 234 after completion of her military occupational specialty training. While with VMGR-234, Song served as a KC-130J Super Hercules loadmaster. During her time as a KC-130J loadmaster, she was awarded the humanitarian service medal and the sea service deployment ribbon with a bronze star in lieu of second award.
“It’s really a pretty cool experience being able to be the first in anything in the Marine Corps.” Staff Sgt. Lauren Song, C-40A Clipper crew chief
Now, she’s serving as the Marine Corps’ first crew chief for the C-40A Clipper.
“A C-40 is a [Boeing] 737 that’s been converted to have a cargo door on the side of it so we can load and unload pallets of cargo in addition to passengers,” says Song.
The Marine Corps placed an order for two C-40A aircraft in 2018 and assigned its personnel with VMR-1 to work with Navy C-40s with Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 59, resulting in Song being one of the first Marines to be a fully certified loadmaster on that airframe. The C-40 is envisioned to provide strategic lift capabilities organic to the Marine Corps, capable of transporting personnel and or cargo farther and faster than any other aircraft currently with the service.
“I got started as a C-40 crew chief when I was stationed with VMGR-234 and the previous commanding officer of VMR-1 was a C-130 pilot, so he would train with us while VMR-1 didn’t have any aircraft,” said Song, “He told me, ‘Hey, we’re looking for some good Marines to get started on the C-40 program,’ and I said, ‘Sign me up!’”
Song was sent back into the training pipeline with two other Marines from her unit, but training flights ended up working in her favor, granting her the privilege of being the first ever C-40A crew chief in the Marine Corps.
Song’s command opted to submit her name for the Marine Corps Aviation Association’s Danny L. Radish award, an established in honor of Master Gunnery Sgt, Danny L. Radish who served as a Marine Aviator for over 23 years. The award seeks to recognize outstanding contributions to Marine Aviation by enlisted aircrew members.
Photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Bell
A Marine Corps C-40A Clipper crew chief instructs a C-40A crew chief student on preflight procedures at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, March 31, 2022.
Song was instrumental in developing the doctrinal products, processes, and programs for VMR-1, writing multiple chapters of the Marine Corps’ first C-40A training and readiness manual, according to her submission for the Danny L. Radish award.
“It’s really a pretty cool experience being able to be the first in anything in the Marine Corps. But specifically like the C-40s, we’ve never done this,” said Song, “The last time we had a similar aircraft was the C-9 that shut down in 2017. So just us getting our feet under ourselves and learning how to work with the Navy and learning a completely new aircraft was a challenge that I really enjoyed.”
As a female Marine, Song is no stranger to challenge.
Female Marines make up 8.9% of the active duty Marine Corps and just 4.3% of the Select Marine Corps Reserve, branding them the title, “The Fewer, The Prouder.”
Gender diversity has been a long standing issue in the Marine Corps but the service has taken strides to close the gap between genders. Female Marines were permitted to serve in combat MOSs starting in 2016, including the admission of women into the infantry community, a once male only occupational field.
“We are Marines. We all earned that title out of boot camp,” said Song, “I don't feel any different than my male counterparts. We are all pushing to get to the same angle and end state. We're all Marines at the end of the day.”