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Navy Lt. John Gregory, patrol plane commander with Patrol Squadron 47, sees the protection of his military and civilian families as his top priority. Photo by: Photo Courtesy of Navy Lt. John Gregory

Navy pilot, former Marine on patrol
(reprinted from Marine Corps News, September 7, 2005)

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY — Hawaii(Sept. 9, 2005) -- The 21st century battlefield involves more cohesion between services, perhaps, than any previous era in United States military history. Marines and Army forces on the ground rely on information collected from Navy and Air Force pilots in the sky, while naval air units protect naval assets at sea and vice versa, and the airborne services may even rely heavily on information collected from the ground.

Here at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Navy P-3C Orion pilots from the various patrol squadrons protect assets on land and at sea while providing aerial reconnaissance for ground units in combat. For one pilot with Patrol Squadron 47, who came into the service as an open-contract Marine, the protection of forces on the ground is not just a job, it's an obligation to protect his family — both military and m'nage.

“Family is everything to me,” said Navy Lt. John Gregory. “For me, being a leader and a warrior comes first, but the protection of my family is a close second.”

Once a Marine Corps food service specialist, Navy Lt. John Gregory is now the patrol plane commander of a P-3C Orion for VP-47. Gregory claims that he will never forget what he learned as a Marine, and with that came an appreciation for the Navy/Marine Corps family and what it can offer.

Born in Richland, Wash., Gregory enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1988, and was first stationed in Yuma, Ariz.

“I knew as soon as I came in that I wanted to do more,” said Gregory, “but in the Marine Corps, I had to wait at least a year before I could leave my MOS (military occupational specialty).”

According to Gregory, he always did his best at every task, and even won the title of Chef of the Quarter before being accepted to Marine Security Guard duty. After graduating, Gregory was first stationed in Rome, where he met his wife Deborah.

“See, I was the nice guy at Post 1 in the Rome Embassy, back in 1991. I worked with an Italian security guard who was much tougher on visitors,” said Gregory. “The two of us combined made a great team. One day he was giving this woman a hard time at the metal detector, and it just so happened that my kind interference during the situation won me the love of my life.”

After his tour in Rome, Gregory began gathering his package to submit for the Meritorious Enlisted Commissioning Program, with his sights set on being a pilot. He did a tour as a security guard in Honduras, then Panama, and finally received his orders to the MECEP program when he was stationed in Mexico City.

“I applied to both Washington State and the University of Idaho, but when both applications were accepted on the same date, I had to decide,” said Gregory. “Idaho offered free, in-state fishing and hunting licenses, so that ended up being a fairly easy decision.”

After graduating from college, Staff Sgt. Gregory was commissioned as a second lieutenant and then attended The Basic School for six months.

“I think TBS is quite possibly the best military leadership training the United States has to offer,” said Gregory. “The things I learned there about leading Marines, I will never forget.”
After attending flight school in Corpus Christi, Texas, Gregory made an interservice transfer to the United States Navy, where he began training as a fixed-wing pilot. From training, Gregory came straight to MCB Hawaii where he is doing his first fleet tour as a P-3C pilot.

Gregory moved his wife and two daughters, now 3-year-old Josephine and 4-year-old Elisabeth, to Kaneohe Bay in 2003 for duty.

“The cohesion here between the Navy and the Marine Corps is really second to none,” said Gregory, “and we in the Navy really enjoy the relationship we have with the Marines of K-Bay. The idea of a Navy/Marine Corps family is truly prevalent here.”

Now a father of three after his son, Duncan, was born three weeks ago, Gregory may soon deploy for the second time, and is focused on providing the best aerial service he can for his counterparts on the ground.

“I also have a cousin in the Army National Guard who does convoy security, and all I can think of while I'm airborne is how much his life may depend on my accurate reconnaissance,” said Gregory. “He's the one with the tougher job, but I have to make sure I do mine so he can live to do his. It's that cooperation between our forces that makes me proud to serve the Navy doing the job that I do. We're a family, and family is one of my highest priorities.”