Airman goes Gung-Ho with Marines
By Senior Airman Gage Daniel, 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 24, 2019
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- The Gung-Ho award recognizes the student who best displays esprit de corps, outstanding motivation and teamwork and is voted upon by their peers within the course. It’s the equivalent of our Airman Leadership School John L. Levitow award.
In April, Tech. Sgt. Thang Huynh, a 27th Special Operations Maintenance Squadron metals technology section chief, attended the seven week Marine Corps career course.
“I was blindsided when I won the award,” Huynh said. “I thought any of the marines deserved the award. Accepting it among marines and their families, who saw me, an Airman, win and accept on behalf of the Air Force was humbling.
But not everyone gets this opportunity. Huynh was selected for the course by Chief Master Sgt. Carlos Cordova, the 27th SOMXS superintendent, after a thorough interview and show of quality performance in the office and on the field.
“If you fail the Marine physical fitness test the first day, they send you back,” Cordova said. “Fitness is a big deal to the Marines. But more than fitness, it’s about being a go-getter, and Huynh is just that. When’s he's tasked with something, he gets it done.”
The career course’s objective is to provide instruction Marine staff sergeants on leadership development and war fighting skills necessary to lead Marines in combat and builds upon the knowledge gained in the Marine Corps distance education program.
“It was a career course that was our equivalent of Noncommissioned Officer Academy that included platoon ops marine combat skills and tactics,” Huynh said. “They were very ground-level tactics though. It was about leadership/followership and how to be those things.”
Going into the course, Huynh knew that all U.S. military branches share views and stereotypes between themselves. Thus, he brought it upon himself to try and alter the opinion of the Air Force for some of the Marines, and he did just that.
“I stood out,” Huynh said. “Everything I did they looked at with a critical eye. They were very tentative to me. It was tough the first few weeks, but I knew there are stigmas and stereotypes from one branch of service about the next, so I tried to exceed and represent for the Air Force, and in the end, they accepted me. I earned their respect.”
While training with the Marines and doing his best to represent the Air Force, Huynh learned more about them as individuals and people, not a whole branch, and how they conduct operations.
“What impressed me the most was that they had no fear. Zero,” Huynh said. “They were strong in all aspects and had a lot of camaraderie and most importantly, they weren’t afraid to fail.”
Taking after the Marines, Huynh adopted some of the traits he learned from the course and applied it to his own life.
“I was out of my comfort zone every day,” Huynh said. “I gained a lot of strength and confidence while attending the course. It made me more willing to accept new challenges and not limit myself to things that I might usually be reluctant to do.”
Overall, Huynh took advantage of the course to better himself and get a new understanding of an environment Airmen are not particularly familiar with.
“When Huynh came back we moved him to another section and he ran with it,” Cordova said. “He always stood out to us and after returning from this course I can say he is a phenomenal leader. I’m proud of him.”
Even though Huynh received no Air Force credit for the class and will still have to take NCOA, he is grateful for the opportunity.
“It was a tremendous experience,” Huynh said. “In my 10 years, it was one of the best career opportunities I’ve had. I loved working with the Marines. They have a lot of passion, they’re bright and they’re confident. At the end of the course, one even told me, ‘I want you to be on my fire team, Huynh. I’d go to war with you any day!”