Getting the full experience - Airman trains with Marines, takes top honors

  • Published
  • By Bob Fehringer
  • U.S. Transportation Command
U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agent James F. Hoy accomplished a feat earlier this year that is rarely achieved by Air Force members. He was named the Honor Graduate of his Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy class. Not a unique achievement you may think, except, he attended the Marine Corps equivalent of the school.

"It's the top award given to the student that achieves the highest GPA (grade point average - his was 100) and also achieves nominations from all the instructor cadre and then has overall high scores for physical training assessment."

Hoy, a member of the Special Agent Security team for the commander, U.S. Transportation Command, topped 60 Marines and three other Air Force members in his class.

"I'm always looking for opportunities to acquire joint training, joint knowledge," Hoy continued, "and the Air Force has a program that allows you, depending on your rank, to attend different sister service PMEs." So the services that were available to E7 without a line number for E8 are the U.S. Coast Guard academy and the Marine Corps academy."

According to Hoy, he's always been fond of the Marine Corps and before he enlisted, was torn between the Air Force and the Marine Corps, "I felt the Air Force was more in line with my long term goals in law enforcement," he said, "but I always kind of wondered what it would be like if I had been in the Marine Corps."

The seven-week-course at Camp Lejune, North Carolina, gave him the chance to find out.

Airmen and Marines may be thought of as occupying different ends of the toughness spectrum, which is not meant to be derogatory by any means. It's just that the Marines are known for their ability to handle the most difficult situations, anywhere, at any time.

"The Marine Corps highly values physical fitness and that was very obvious going through the course," Hoy continued. "It seemed physical fitness was the priority even over the academics. There was a lot more intensity and frequency."

While Hoy is not a stranger to the physical and tactical side of military training, he said the fitness training involved many group runs, which often involved carrying a team mate on his shoulders, or on a litter, through mud and obstacles.

"My first career field was Security Forces and we did a lot of airbase defense and ground combat, kind of the grunt work of the Air Force, but I don't ever recall getting that dirty, as I did doing that. It was a lot of fun."

So, how did a group of Marine gunnery sergeants react to an airman beating them at their own game?

"I think generally everyone was supportive," Hoy said. "My team was really happy to have me as honor grad. I think some of their leadership gave the Marines a hard time when it was announced I would be the honor grad.

"The sergeant major came in front of the rest of the class," Hoy continued, "shook my hand, and said, 'you did a really good job while you were here representing the Air Force.' Then he looked out at all the gunnery sergeants and said, 'the rest of you are all scum bags. How could you let an airman come in here and take the honor grad award.' Of course he was joking with them."

According to Hoy, he really enjoyed hearing his classmates' experiences in the Marine Corps.

"It was a lot of fun. Just sharing the stories and experiences on what it's like to live in the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps is definitely a lifestyle. The Marines had a haircut every Monday morning. I did it, too. I wanted to get the full experience.

"They were great, very talented professional gunny sergeants," Hoy continued. "Most of these guys had frequent combat tours and a lot of them are decorated, and rightfully so, because they go through a lot, in the Marine Corps, to become a gunnery sergeant."

There's usually something that sticks in your mind after unique experience.

"I really respected their camaraderie, and they didn't fear confrontation," Hoy said. "So they held each other accountable all the time. They weren't afraid to correct their peers.

"And one thing I really liked - their attention to readiness, to be able to go to war, anywhere on the globe," Hoy added. "They have a really good approach and a philosophy to forecasting, in their training schedules, what they are going to do throughout the year to stay ready for when the call comes and they have to deploy. I wanted to take some of that back to my unit in the Air Force."

Hoy had nothing but positive comments on the entire experience.

"I highly recommend it to other Air Force members considering sister service PME," Hoy said, "because it gives a good perspective as to what the other services bring to the fight, and a good appreciation to the joint environment that we are operating in these days.

"I told them (his Marine classmates), from day one, that I was there to win their respect, Hoy added, "because I respected them very much."