MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C., Dec. 21, 2016 — Marine Corps Sgt. Benjamin Bonilla watches his student’s hands through the dim light as they glide over brightly colored keys on a control panel. He listens attentively as the Marine keeps a smooth, reassuring tone in his voice as he clears a pilot for landing on the runway here.
Bonilla is an approach controller assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 28, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. Marine Corps air traffic controllers spend about 12 years to become certified in all ATC elements. Bonilla’s passion for teaching and his work ethic have driven him to complete all his certifications within his assigned field and other elements outside of his designation.
Advanced Training Facility
Marines at Cherry Point, “pride ourselves in being an advanced training facility. We have a lot of Marines strive to get qualified in everything while stationed here, even when it’s not required of them,” Bonilla said.
“If you are willing to work for it, you can do anything you want in this unit and I am grateful for that opportunity,” he said. “I look back at the day I was teaching a gunnery sergeant a new qualification as a corporal and realize all those hours dedicated to making myself better [paid] off.”
Bonilla added, “Teaching is my favorite part of the job. You are passing off your knowledge and experience in air traffic control to the next student that’s behind you. I think it’s developed me and my leadership a lot. Not only does it give you great leadership traits to teach others, but it lets you share your own experience and see Marines grow into something more.”
Bonilla said his fellow ATC Marines have had the biggest positive impact on his career. He said the mentors and teachers that came before him instilled in him the importance of never settling for the standard and taking care of his Marines.
“What I have taken from the Marine Corps is the way it’s shaped my character and career through all of my experiences with the people I have met,” Bonilla said. “Being exposed to people from all walks of life and being positively influenced by them every day is what I think the Corps is all about. Life is about people and how we mold each other.”
By Marine Corps Sgt. Neysa Huertas Quinones