MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Staff Sgt. Eric C. Groenendaal, a flightline staff noncommissioned officer with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366, died of unknown causes at his home in New Bern, N.C., Dec. 30. He was 28.
Groenendaal, a 10-year veteran of the Marine Corps, deployed four times to Iraq and once to the Horn of Africa. Known among his peers as the “Cobra Commander,” Groenendaal’s untimely death has had a profound impact on those he served with.
“There’s not a Marine in this squadron who didn’t personally know, respect and admire Staff Sgt. Groenendaal,” said Capt. Derrick F. Breville, assistant operations officer for HMH-366. “Few people can have as much positive influence on a command climate as Groenendaal did. He led from the front and created an atmosphere where Marines could grow and excel.”
At the squadron, Groenendaal was considered the “go-to” Marine by fellow CH-53E Super Stallion mechanics, pilots and air crew.
“He was what any commanding officer would want in a staff NCO,” said Lt. Col. Trey Meadows, commanding officer of HMH-366.
“Not only was he technically proficient, but he also had a remarkable character and a positive attitude, which he brought to work every day,” Meadows said.
Groenendaal was valued by superiors and subordinates alike for his willingness to teach and mentor others.
“I could go to Staff Sgt. Groenendaal with any question I had – no matter how meaningless or complicated,” said Cpl. Tyzell L. Williams, a CH-53E mechanic with HMH-366. “He never gave a belittling response, and he always believed in a Marine’s ability to learn. He was never the type to micromanage you – he’d always be out in the hangar with you, teaching you everything he could about the aircraft.”
Groenendaal was cited with frequently telling his Marines: “The second you think you know everything, is the second you’re useless to the squadron.”
“He was a great leader, and he was humble about it too,” said Cpl. Cutler W. Bakke, a CH-53E mechanic with HMH-366. “It’s going to be hard not having him around, and he’ll be sorely missed by everyone.”
A memorial service was held at the air station chapel Friday in honor of Groenendaal.
He is survived by his wife, Cindy; parents, David and Christy; brothers, Matthew and Herbert; maternal grandfather, Dillen; and paternal grandparents, David and Lorraine.
Groenendaal will be laid to rest today in his hometown of Erie, Pa.