MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
A heavy equipment operator platoon sergeant with Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 was surprised when he was named the Aviation Ground Marine of the Year and the recipient of the Jack W. Demmond Award which is given to the best ground support Marine for an air wing unit in the Marine Corps.
Staff Sgt. Robert Leatherman, a Phoenix native, said he had no idea he would ever get this type of award when he made a last minute decision to join the Marine Corps 12 years ago under an open contract.
“I never planned to be a Marine, and had no plan for an MOS [military occupational specialty] when I joined,” he said. “I just joined right after high school. I got this job after boot camp and just put in my best effort.”
Leatherman said he was selected for the award after his platoon’s outstanding support of Operation Iraqi Freedom during his last deployment.
“We ran 104 missions throughout our last six-month deployment,” he said. “We worked on HLZs [helicopter landing zones], runways and a bunch of FOBs [forward operating bases] in Iraq.
“We normally would do 20 or so missions in a deployment like that,” he said. “We ran so many – that’s probably why we got recognized.”
Leatherman said he didn’t earn this award on his own.
“If it wasn’t for all the time my NCOs [non-commissioned officers] and junior Marines put in, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Every time my Marines are outside the wire, I’m with them. They worked a lot last deployment, and I spent a lot of time with them,” he said.
“My wife also supported me a lot throughout the years,” he said. “I’ve been through five deployments in 12 years in the Marine Corps. Teresa has always been there to support me since we’ve been married.”
Sgt. Adam Batchelor, a platoon sergeant who works under Leatherman, said he is a great person to work with.
“The entire time I’ve worked with him he has been an outstanding staff NCO,” said the Hines City, Fla., native. “He’s dedicated a lot of time and effort to his Marines. It really shows now that he’s been recognized for his accomplishments.”
Leatherman, who will be presented with the award in October, plans to make the Marine Corps a career. He said he plans to transition back to a duty station on the east coast when his duty assignment at the Combat Center is completed.