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Interview with George Marsinko [Undated]

Charlie Eyerly:

How long have you been in?

George Marsinko:

I have been in since 7/25/1989 -- 15 1/2 years.

Charlie Eyerly:

Why did you join?

George Marsinko:

I joined when I was 19. I had multiple reasons for joining. I didn't have the money to go to college. My father died in April of 1989 and i was grieving my father's death. I needed some direction in my life. Prior to my father's death he and I had spoken about military service and it seemed like a good career path.

Charlie Eyerly:

In which war did you serve?

George Marsinko:

I served in desert storm, operations in Kosovo, Operation Southern Watch after Desert Storm, Operation Desert Fox, and Operation Noble Anvil in Kosovo as well as Operation Southern Watch.

Charlie Eyerly:

Does your job differ in peacetime compared to wartime?

George Marsinko:

The type of unit I am in is a helicopter anti submarine warfare unit. The helicoptor squadrons I have served in are HS 7, HS 5, HS 1. To answer your question I need to give you a clearer understanding of what it is the helicopter anti submarine units do. The squadrons are responsible for anti submarine warfare as well as other jobs such as anti surface warfare, naval special warfare, combat search and rescue, utility operations, and intelligence operations to name a few. The helicopters are multi mission capable. In war time and peacetime our mission stays the same: To maintain our high state of combat readiness. To do that, in peacetime you have to fly as many missions that resemble combat as closely as possible to maintain a state of readiness. Once a shooting war starts that is not the time for training. AWs have the responsibility of maintaining combat readiness. In the type of helicoptor I fly in we have 4 people. There are 2 pilots and 2 enlisted guys in the back. These are AWs. They have numerous jobs; operating sonar, crew serve weapons, combat search and rescue where we get out of the helicoptor and rescue the survivors. We have to authenticate them - this means that we have to determine who they are and what their purpose in the area has been- And do the things in other services where the particular skill of search and rescue is a singular responsibility. The airforce has the para rescuers that are search and rescue people only. AWs have to be a jack of all trades. In peacetime we train intensively on a work up cycle. When a squadron gets back from deployment they are at their most combat readiness because there is a stand down time after deployment their training is less. During deployments there are work ups and progression of training toward deployments. They sometimes become more dangerous than combat. Over the 15yrs in my career i have lost several friends in training situations. The reason we train so hard is so our military is ready. Even thought it is dangerous it is worth it because your crew is ready. Training Is just as hazardous in my job as combat.

Charlie Eyerly:

Have you been wounded in combat or training?

George Marsinko:

I have never been injured in either. I sustain minor injuries during my SAR jumps. These are annual qualifications where the AWs jump from the air craft in simulation of water search and rescue. The acronym SAR stands for search and rescue. I receive minor cuts and bruises from that.

Charlie Eyerly:

What situations did you find yourself in any physical danger?

George Marsinko:

Because I fly in the back of the hello every day is a possible physical danger. Hellos have more moving parts than a fixed wing air craft. More things can go wrong. The rotors can stop working, the hydraulics can stop working. As the main rotor turns the counter revolutionary force in the bottom makes it want to spin. The tail rotor stops this and counteracts the spin. If something happens with the tail rotor you have a problem. We fly on night vision goggles. Night vision enables us to see very well at night and perform operations that you may not otherwise be able to do in the dark. Frequently on night vision goggle flights we have had close calls with hitting other hellos and trees. One of my other duties as an AW is to scan and alert the pilots as to which direction to fly the aircraft. In a situation where you are landing in a land zone at night we all act as scanners to direct the pilot to land and help be the pilots’ eyes. I have been on operations in support of unit nations 1441- The oil for food program - Where we enforced resolution 1441. We categorized and filtered oil smugglers from Iraq. Iraq was raising money for illegal use by smuggling the oil. These were dangerous times. We embarked 8 seals aboard the hello and inserted them onto the smuggling ship. Some of the dangers: The ships, because they are smugglers, they do not want to comply with maritime law. They sail down wind and force the hello to hover down wind. They make it harder for the aircraft to hover over its deck and deploy the seals. They also turn all of their light and it interferes with our night vision goggles. I have also flown in height altitude. The air is thinner and the aircraft has a more difficult time staying airborne. The operations in Kosovo were like that because the air was so thin. In Fallon Nevada we train search and rescue in high altitude.

Charlie Eyerly:

What is the most tragic or interesting incident, involving yourself or a friend (veteran), that you have ever been through?

George Marsinko:

In May of 1981 was at a weapons training unit. My job was to train fleet squadrons to be combat ready prior to their deployment. I was at the end of my tour, which is three years. I was heading to HS-7 the Shamrocks. Squadrons typically come up with a call sign... The Shamrocks call sign was the Dusty Dogs. I was scheduled to go out to Fallon Nevada to their deployment in May 1998. The weather pushed me back a week and I was delayed. They were flying at high altitudes doing seal inserts. A good fried of mine was killed due to poor piloting and poor decisions. The air craft came in too hot to the LZ. They lost control of the tail rotor. The aircraft spun and the wheel caught a fence. It spun through the air sideways. My friend was on a gunner's belt trying to direct the pilot. My friend was flown at the window and crushed when the hello landed on him. His lower body from rebs down was under the aircraft. He was still alive at impact. The survivors tried to dig him out. The hello caught on fire at the tail rotor. The survivors had to stop digging him out because the rest of the hello caught on fire. The aircraft burned to the ground killing my friend. Several of the members who tried to dig him out received medals for Navy Marine Corp lifesaving medals with heroism for heroic acts of trying to save his life. This is the most tragic incident. Not the only one, but the most tragic. I checked in to the squadron two days after this happened. The chief at the time, I was a 2nd, he turned to me and told me the story, told me that the aircrew shop was demoralized. Many were considering giving up flying. He needed me to motivate the shop to flying again. The funeral service we had was on sunday and on monday we had to be training ready. I had to motivate 25 people to fly who had just seen a good friend die. There were quite a few injuries. One guy decided not to fly any more.

Charlie Eyerly:

What is the scariest moment you have experienced as a veteran? i was on an exercise in the north atlantic and the sea state was soft. The aircraft carrier was pitching and rolling. Most of our battle group had turned around and went back to scotland. I was in the h3 sea king. The predecessor to the H 60. The temp was -25 degrees. There was snow and ice on the deck of the aircraft carrier. The water temp was 25 degrees. It didn't freeze because it was salt water. If you fell in the water you'd last 5 minutes. I was in the hello dressed in gear to jump in for a rescue if i had to. Our mission was anti submarine war fare. We were doing an exercise with the French and Norwegians. The scariest moment was this: I was looking out the window of the air craft. The ship rolled and i saw an e2 towed by two tow trucks. The e2 slid towrd my aircraft and my rotor was turning. The carrier helicopters are chained to the deck before they take off so they don't roll of the ship. Prior to flying the hello is unchained. So my hello was still chained and if the e2 had slid into us we would both have exploded. When this happed I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. Luckily the ship rolled in the opposite direction and the tow trucks were pulling in the opposite way. The air boss in charge of deck operations shut down all flight ops. All flight were canceled due to inclement weather.

Charlie Eyerly:

What training have you completed?

George Marsinko:

Initially you go through boot camp.

George Marsinko:

This is where they teach you how to be a sailor. After this you go through a process for them to find what you are suited for. I was fortunate to have come through a program for air crew. I was guaranteed to fly in some kind of air craft as an enlisted man. Most aircrew that come through obligate themselves to try air crew school. After boot cam pi went through 5 weeks of aircrew school in how to be an aircrewman. This is where they teach you how to survive, how to use your flight gear, how to survive with a deep water emergency survival. From there you go to search and rescue swimmer school. All aircrewman that fly are rescue swimmers. You have to go through 4 weeks of SAR school. This involves intensive physical training with lots of rescue instruction in water. From here we go the AW school. We learn to classify submarines. The school is 2 vi months in duration. This was a difficult. School. I finished with honors. From there you go to a training squad that has the aircraft you are going to fly in. This training squadron for me was HS- 1 based in Jax FL. At that time you are an aircrewman to fly in that air craft. I was trained in the h 3 sea king helicoptor. This was the predecessor of the h-60 - the aircraft i now fly in. From there you go to many schools such as; combat rescue ground school, small armed inst, advanced sear.... Survive escape and resist school. This school teaches you how to be a POW. A prisoner of war. The school prepares you for capture and teaches you what to do in the incident that you are captured. You learn about the Geneva Convention and methods of torture that are accepted by the DoD. Your senses are overwhelmed. It is a very valuable school. before i joined the navy i had no idea of the real meaning patriotism. In sear school you are rescued at the end. The national anthem is played and there is not a dry eye there. You think of what you would feel like in a POW camp and you realize the sacrifices of the people that cam before you. Makes me think of my father in Vietnam.

Charlie Eyerly:

Do you feel your training and supplies have been sufficient?

George Marsinko:

Training is sufficient for me to do my job. It can always be improved upon. There could always be better equipment. I feel that both have been pretty sufficient.

Charlie Eyerly:

Did you feel supported while fighting and coming home? when i went on my first deployments the military was not very popular. This was during the cold war. At that time i didn't feel like the nation, as a whole understood the sacrifices of the military service member. I didn't feel that we deemed any more important on special than your average Joe. After the gulf war there seemed to be a lot more support. There was a marked improvement. All vets seemed to see this. I am sure Vietnam veterans couldn't believe it. In 1991 made it to the gulf war on the USS Eisenhower right after the war stopped. Lots of companies were trying to send their support anyway they could.

George Marsinko:

Corporations sent stuff out to us. We got kudos, skittles and all kinds of stuff like magazines and books. boxes and boxes of things from corporations kept coming. I kind of ate too many skittles. Hope i don't see any more skittles. It had been a long time since we had been to war. The image of the soldier changed and thinking evolved. the Clinton admin brought ebb in the support. We heard a lot of "we support the troops but not the mission". This was difficult to hear because supporting the troops is supporting what they are doing. You may not agree with the decision to go to war or bomb a country. but the ideas behind what we stand for are why we go to war. Freedom, liberty, equality... Not just for us but others. Our country was never under direct attack from the Germans prior to the Japanese attacking pearl harbor. There were Germans attacking our ships during the lend lease attack but they never attacked the continental united states. We went to war to liberate England, Poland, France, Italy, and Austria who were attacked by the Germans. Saying that you support the troops and not the mission is mixed support. This last war the public had mixed support. There is always the extreme left that try to lessen what the military stands for.

Charlie Eyerly:

How did serving in wartime change you?

George Marsinko:

It changes a person as it forces you to relinquish the freedoms you have when you are on land. In war time i am on a ship, sleeping in a rack that is six ft long and 2 vz feet wide. My standard of living lowers quite a bit. These conditions change you. You have to learn to live with other people in tight corners. You can't go on a walk and be alone with 5000 people. Material items become small and you think of your loved ones. You come closer to god and do a lot of soul searching. Any day could be your last. You have to be ready for this. I've been in combat zones where people have died. That changes you. Seeing the sacrifices of others.

Charlie Eyerly:

Have you ever gone out of your way to help someone?

George Marsinko:

most of the time in my job it is second nature. Early in my career i was in St. Thomas and a shipmate had fallen off a dock and start to drown. Another vendor saw him, I rushed across the street and looked in the water to see his hand sinking. I reached in and pulled him out of the water. I was later given a commendation for doing that. Our rescue swimmer motto is " so that others may live." what kind of combat have you been through? i have been in operations where we took ship take downs. Helicoptor search and seizure. I have been on numerous seal inserts where we secretly drop special operation soldiers in to hot zones.

Charlie Eyerly:

Do you ever see anyone that you served in war with? the community that i serve in is about 1500 people at the most. On a daily basis i see people i have served with for over 10 years.

Charlie Eyerly:

What sacrifices have you made to be a sailor?

George Marsinko:

Initially, there are the sacrifices of liberty. When you join any service you can't go do whatever you want whenever you want. You have to maintain a uniform appearance and conduct yourself accordingly. Another sacrifice is when i came in i was single later i married and the sacrifice is being away from your family. It is one of the main reasons people get out of the navy; separation from family. It's hard to leave my family. When you are at sea away from your family you have the possibility of never returning. There is also a sacrifice of your personal religion because there is a possibility that you could kill someone in the line of duty..

Charlie Eyerly:

What were people like in the country you fought in? in Kosovo there are Serbs, like Russians, the Bosnians. It's really confusing because there are a lot. There are creations. Bosnia and Serbia all used to be Yugoslavia. It is the size of Ohio. There were national issues in that country. There were lots of ethnic problems between the Christians and the Muslims. There were lots of religious wars. Ethnic cleansing was rampant with people not willing to budge on their beliefs and strive for peace. They were less in the 20th century than any other people i had met. Cleanliness was not a priority. Their political agendas are underlined with religious agendas. These problems go back for hundreds of years. They are stuck on their differences and can't move forward. How long were you away? typically deployments last six months.

Charlie Eyerly:

Do you feel that serving in the military is worth the sacrifice?

George Marsinko:

Absolutely. The freedoms that we have are guaranteed by the sacrifices that military members make for the country. When our freedoms are infringed upon we will be ready.

Charlie Eyerly:

What were the conditions you served under?

George Marsinko:

Kuwait, Iraq, sleeping in tents. We have slept in hangars. I sleep in a small rack on the ship. 6ft by 2 ft. This is they only space you get.

Charlie Eyerly:

What did you miss most while you were deployed?

George Marsinko:

missed my family the most. Driving. Getting up on a Saturday and having my own agenda.

Charlie Eyerly:

What special events have you missed while you were away?

George Marsinko:

I’ve been deployed five times. I have missed Christmas and thanksgiving 4 years. I missed my birthday lots of times.

Charlie Eyerly:

How did your fellow sailors treat you?

George Marsinko:

As a senior enlisted the treatment is pretty good. There is a lot of support from your peers.

Charlie Eyerly:

If you could go back and change something would you?

George Marsinko:

I would have attended college right after high school so i would have signed on for the military as an officer.

Charlie Eyerly:

Have you ever come face to face with the enemy?

George Marsinko:

I have seen Iraqi merchant marines smuggling oil up close and personal. I have never seen combatants up close.

Charlie Eyerly:

What is the longest you have been deployed?

George Marsinko:

Six and half months.

Charlie Eyerly:

What's a typical day like on the ship?

George Marsinko:

You get up at 6am. You get out of your rack and head to a shower. You are in 80 man berthing. There are about 10 showers for 80 people. So you stand in line. You then head to the galley four levels below. Wait in line; eat breakfast. Then i go to the ready room to do a one hr brief for my flight, then we go and pre flight the air craft; fly for 4 hours. We could do cargo transfer, gun shoot practice, search and rescue.. You then land and debrief. You've flown through lunch and so you hurry to dinner. You then finish up any paper work, work out, go to sleep and then the day starts over.

Charlie Eyerly:

Have you worked closely with someone that has been injured or killed because of military service?

George Marsinko:

Yes. I have seen accidents on top of the air craft. I saw an airman get too close to the intake of an s-3 and it sucked him in and took off half of his arm. I've seen multiple accidents on top of the aircraft.

Charlie Eyerly:

If you weren't in the military what do you think your career would be?

George Marsinko:

I would probably be a police officer. How long do you plan to stay in the military? i will more than likely stay to finish at about 24 years maybe longer.

Charlie Eyerly:

What do you plan to do when you get out?

George Marsinko:

I will hopefully have my masters before i retire and perhaps teach or work in law enforcement.

Charlie Eyerly:

Do you have any family members that are veterans?

George Marsinko:

my uncle, father, and mother were Vietnam vets. My cousin was a veteran of Libya conflict when we attacked Khadafy.

Charlie Eyerly:

How has being a veteran changed your life?

George Marsinko:

It gives you a new found respect for the values our country was founded on. It renews your patriotism and your sense of how good the USA is.

 
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  October 26, 2011
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