NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas –
Staff Sgt. Lauren Song joined the Marine Corps do something more with her life and has surpassed that goal by now serving as the first crew chief for the C-40A Clipper.
Song is currently stationed with Marine Transport Squadron (VMR) 1, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 41, Marine Forces Reserve, in Fort Worth, Texas.
“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,” Song said.
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 (VR) 59, resulting in Song being one of the first Marines to be a fully certified loadmaster on the airframe. The C-40 is envisioned to provide strategic lift capabilities organic to the Marine Corps, capable of transporting personnel and cargo farther and faster than any other aircraft currently with the service.
Song joined the Marine Corps in October 2015, eventually being assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Squadron (VMGR) 234 after completion of her military occupational specialty (MOS) training. While with VMGR-234, she 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.
“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,” Song said. “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, established in honor of Master Gunnery Sgt. Danny L. Radish, who served as a Marine Aviator for more than 23 years. The award seeks to recognize outstanding contributions to Marine Aviation by enlisted aircrew members.
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,” she said. “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.
“I figured the Marine Corps would be the biggest challenge out of all the branches and it has not disappointed in that aspect,” Song said. “But I’ve enjoyed it so far.”
Female Marines make up 8.9 percent of the active duty Marine Corps and just 4.3 percent 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,” Song said. “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.”
Written by Cpl. Brendan Mullin, Marine Forces Reserve.