After tightening the gunner’s belt around my chest, the crew chief motioned for me to walk toward the rear ramp of the MV-22 Osprey.
“This is as far as you’ll be able to go!” he screamed over the sound of the Osprey’s massive twin tiltrotors as my toes reached the edge of the ramp.
I thought to myself, “This is as good a day as any to get over my fear of heights.”
I was riding in an Osprey for the first time.
Only two days before stepping onto the Osprey, I arrived in Cleveland for Marine Week, an exposition where Marines showcase their capabilities and interact with the local community. As a Marine combat correspondent and broadcaster, I was in Cleveland to tell these Marines’ stories.
My assignment today was a story about a group of civilians also riding on an Osprey for the first time as part of an orientation and indoctrination flight.
As we lifted off of the small runway at Burke Lakefront Airport, I watched through the lens of my camera as the narrow strip of land grew even smaller. We soared over the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Cleveland Browns Stadium and west Cleveland. A sudden bank to the left, followed by a jump from 120 mph to 170 mph, and we were shooting past the Terminal and Key towers, heading east along Lake Erie’s coast.
The other passengers in the plane were secure, seatbelts fastened. As I looked around at all the anxious and excited looks, I wondered if a week ago they knew they’d be in a multimillion-dollar military aircraft.
At this point, I wasn’t even aware that I had left my seat and was sitting on the rear ramp, hundreds of feet above Erie – my fear of heights forgotten.
After 15 minutes of eastbound flying, we turned back toward the birth place of rock ‘n’ roll. The lead Osprey we had been following down Erie’s coast dropped back and moved into our view out of our open rear hatch. Watching the other Osprey, I marveled at how steady its movements were across the Ohio horizon.
I know that Marine Corps pilots receive countless hours of training before they are entrusted with aircraft – this thought kept me comfortable with only a few inches of metal between me and the hundreds of feet of air above the lake.
The crew chief who secured me to the deck of the Osprey before take off now sat across from me at the rear of the plane. Every time I glanced in his direction, I saw the same contented smile on his face as he gazed out at the Osprey. At one point, he noticed me filming.
“Your job is pretty awesome!” I shouted.
He nodded, gave a thumbs up and returned his gaze to the skies.
Approaching the landing strip, the aircraft slowed before touching down smoothly on the worn runway. As we taxied into the staging area, I thought about how amazing the ride was. I was ready to go right back up.
As soon as we stopped, I unhooked from the gunner’s belt and sprinted out the rear of the plane to film the excited passengers’ exit.
It’s days like this that I love being a Marine and a combat correspondent. Not many jobs in the Marine Corps give you the chance to get a small taste of everything the Corps has to offer.
Marine Week Cleveland is one of those chance opportunities for not only people in my job field, but all Marines, journalists, and civilians to see the Marine Corps for what it is: America’s 9-1-1 force in readiness, always ready to answer the call to defend freedom.