Unmanned aerial vehicle operators with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 4, at Camp Talega on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, were honored in VMU-4’s first winging ceremony on June 17, 2018.
VMU-4, a subordinate unit of Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, is one of four UAV squadrons in the Marine Corps and the only one in the Reserve component.
The squadron, nicknamed “Evil Eyes,” entered the force structure on July 1, 2010, when Marine Observation Squadron 4 was reactivated and re-designated as VMU-4. The squadron inherited the history of VMO-4 which was an observation squadron that saw extensive action during World War Two. They were last based at Naval Air Station Atlanta, Georgia, and were deactivated on May 23, 1993 as part of the post-Cold War drawdown of forces.
“The Marine Corps has had UAVs since the 1980s, and we are finally being recognized for our contributions, which is great,” said Gunnery Sgt. Brian E. Frias, a UAV operator with VMU-4. “But the ones who came before us, that don’t get to be a part of this ceremony, are the ones that really deserve the credit.”
UAVs are aircrafts operated without a human pilot aboard, and instead are operated by a ground-based controller and a system of communication between the two.
A winging ceremony is a tradition in the armed forces, where after completing and passing all aviation requirements and classes, service members earn the right to wear pilot wings on their uniform. This winging ceremony was a historic event for the Marine Corps, as it is the first time the Marine Corps has winged UAV operators and enlisted Marines.
On top of wearing their new wings, the UAV operators of VMU-4 have begun training with new drones. They previously operated the RQ-7B Shadow, and recently began operating the RQ-21A Blackjack.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Lance Cpl. Daniel Sanchez, a UAV operator with VMU-4. “With the unit progressing with the new bird too, it feels like a fresh start as an operator.”
Twenty-nine Marines received their wings during the ceremony: Lieutenant Col. Paul J. Marko, Major Jonathan Schiler, Captain Andrew Dixon, Captain Kyle Hayhurst, Gunnery Sgt. Jonathan Frakes, Gunnery Sgt. Brian Frias, Staff Sgt. Daniel Gallemit, Sgt. Ryan Novoa, Sgt. David Dang, Cpl. Freddy Calderon, Cpl. Matthew Lora, Cpl. Mike Arce, Cpl. Renee Rendon, Cpl. Robert Medrano, Lance Cpl. Alberto Cruz, Lance Cpl. Austin Haneline, Lance Cpl. Christian Goguen, Lance Cpl. Daniel Sanchez, Lance Cpl. George Miller, Lance Cpl. James Sherry, Lance Cpl. Jesse Hernandez, Lance Cpl. Joshua Reyes, Lance Cpl. Lindsay Stransky, Lance Cpl. Michael Li, Lance Cpl. Michael Mamigonian, Lance Cpl. Seth Bauman, Lance Cpl. Tracy Sanders, Lance Cpl. Victor Iraheta, and Private First Class Joseph Mai.