CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Cpl. Erin C. Pesti is afraid of heights, but she said that doesn’t keep her down.
“When I get to fly I have an opportunity to go somewhere new and meet new people,” the Athens, Ga., native said. “I get to watch them and see how they live and react to the things around them. My least favorite part of my day is when I’m not flying. I get irritated when I don’t fly very often.”
Pesti, a KC-130J Hercules crew chief with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 is currently serving her fifth month deployed to Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, where her squadron supports 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).
“As a crew chief I perform general maintenance, preflight and post-flight checks, and I advise the pilots on flights,” she said. “I’m also responsible for knowing the limitations for airspeed, pressures for the hydraulics, fuel quantities and keeping the fuel going to the engines and transferring fuel to the receivers during aerial refueling.”
Pesti said she couldn’t have imagined when she enlisted in the Marine Corps that she would eventually become a Hercules crew chief, guaranteeing the safety and functionality of a multimillion dollar aircraft.
“I came in the Marine Corps on an open contract and got this,” she said. “I feel like I got lucky because I love what I do.”
When Pesti is not busy performing her duties during a flight, she said she studies KC-130J specifications, with the goal of earning the next level in her crew chief designation.
Fellow crewmembers said Pesti is best known for her restless personality and contagious humor. Despite despising work involving ladders due to her fear of heights, Pesti said she enjoys flying and feels confident in her duties on the KC-130J.
Sgt. Joshua A. Palmer, a KC-130J loadmaster with VMGR-152, attested to her strength, admirable work ethic and sense of humor.
“Pesti can inject humor into many dry situations, often lightening the mood and making long, arduous days more bearable,” Palmer said. “She has a very outgoing attitude and is a pleasure to have as a fellow crewmember.”
Palmer said he has known Pesti since they both went through their military occupational speciality training in Pensacola, Fla. He said the two have served side-by-side through survival, maintenance and KC-130J-specific training, a partnership which was rekindled at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa, Japan, the home station for VMGR-152.
“She has come a long way since we were in school together,” Palmer said. “After aircrew training we parted ways, and then ran into each other in Okinawa, Japan, where we were both stationed.”
Pesti said she’s flown on many missions, once traveling to Cambodia and recently supporting Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266 on their retrograde flight from Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, to return with other elements of the 26th Marine Expditionary Unit. However, she said the flights she holds closest to heart serve the Marine Corps in a different way.
“My most memorable missions are those where we take Marines who were killed in action home,” Pesti said. “Those are the most important to me because those Marines get to go back home to their families. Not to say that taking supplies and lighting up the skies for the troops on the ground isn’t important, but those final flights are personal.”
Prior to deploying to Afghanistan, Pesti worked for VMGR-152 crew chief staff noncommissioned officer in charge, Master Sgt. Daniel J. Farrell.
“When Cpl. Pesti worked for me she showed she is determined, unwavering, hardworking, loyal, responsible and mature,” Farrell said. “This is why we sent her on the deployment. The Marines are all handpicked by the senior Staff NCOs, and we were confident in her abilities to do this squadron justice and get the mission accomplished.”
Along with working toward her next crew chief designation, Pesti said she is pursuing a promotion to sergeant, but she said she sees her most important goal as improving herself and her shop, one day at a time.
“When I first met Pesti, she was a headstrong girl from Georgia,” Palmer said. “Becoming a respected crew chief is a grueling task, taking many hours of studying and many hours of flying, learning all the complex aircraft systems. It is here that any crewmember grows or is defeated. She is one of those that has not been defeated.”