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Caring for Airmen pushes Travis sergeant to recognition

  • Published
  • By Nick DeCicco
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Ask Senior Master Sgt. Marcus Hewett’s colleagues about him and they practically throw a dictionary at you.

Selfless. Phenomenal. Leader. Servant. Sharp. Enabler. Friendly. Kind. The descriptors just keep flowing.

“I’m happy to talk all day about Senior Master Sgt. Hewett,” said Lt. Col. Justin Alberico, commander of the unit in which Hewett serves, the 6th Air Refueling Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, California. “If I could impress anything on you about him, about his personality, it’s the desire to serve, the kindness and the goodness that he displays. He’s a selfless servant.” 

Chief Master Sgt. Jess Reeson, 6th ARS chief enlisted manager, agreed, noting that Hewett always seems to go the extra mile to help, to teach and to lead.

“When you’re watching him interact with Airmen, he’s asking them questions about flying, asking, ‘hey, what can I do to better myself?’ (He does) anything to take care of people,” Reeson said. “He is the epitome of service before self.” 

Hewett enjoys making jobs and lives easier. It’s a key component of how the 6th ARS superintendent views his role in the Air Force and a fundamental reason why he was selected as the Staff Sgt. Henry E. “Red” Erwin Award for Career Enlisted Aviator of the Year on Sept. 18, 2020. 

It’s the first time Hewett has been recognized for helping others. His Air Force career started in 2001 as a security forces Airmen before cross-training to become a firefighter paramedic. 

At Shaw AFB, South Carolina, in 2008, Hewett was part of a team that used the Hurst Jaws of Life to save a 5-year-old child after a three-car vehicle collision. For their efforts, the Shaw AFB fire department was awarded the 2008 Green Cross Rescue of the Year Award.

“We truly made a difference that day and saved that 5-year-old's life, thanks to Hurst tools,” Hewett said in 2009. 

Though he said he loved being a firefighter paramedic, his career field faced manning overages, so Hewett changed gears again, becoming a KC-10 Extender flight engineer.

There, as he added more stripes to his uniform, the 6th ARS superintendent focused on looking out for Airmen. 

“I care,” Hewett said. “I care. I care about people. I care about taking care of others.” 

The investment in the lives of his Airmen isn’t exclusive to duty hours. As a private pilot and certified flight instructor, Hewett prioritizes safety while also trying to pass on his passion for aviation.

“It’s one reason I became a flyer,” he said. “We’re gatekeepers. If we can (make an impact on) someone at an early age in their flying career, that ripples throughout the rest of their career.” 

Hewett has other notable marks as well. He was a distinguished graduate in his Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy class. He’s a Federal Aviation Administration Safety Team representative, the only one at Travis AFB, giving him the opportunity to host and teach safety seminars for the base’s aviation community.  

The “Red” Erwin Award is an Air Force-level honor given annually at the junior enlisted, noncommissioned officer and senior NCO tiers to Airmen with outstanding accomplishments in the aircrew operations career fields with significant results, major mission impact, demonstration of outstanding leadership and professional qualities, and superior contributions to the roles and missions of the Air Force.  

The award is named for an Army Air Forces radio operator whose quick thinking during a World War II mission after a white phosphorous bomb ignited prematurely saved the lives of his crew while he sustained lifelong wounds that required dozens of surgeries.

In keeping with his personality, he insists he didn’t earn the award on his own, thanking his spouse, Capt. Christina Hewett, who serves in the 349th Aeromedical Staging Squadron, as well as his leadership.

Alberico took leadership of the 6th ARS in July 2020. While only serving as his commander for four months, Alberico said Hewett’s reputation preceded him.

“Before I had the opportunity to meet anybody in the squadron, one person who was singled out as one of the hallmarks of the squadron was Senior Master Sgt. Hewett,” Alberico said. “I absolutely could not say enough about things he’s doing. He invests in his Airmen and subordinates underneath him.”

Hewett’s wingmen, Reeson and Alberico both bet on Hewett being a chief someday. Reeson said there is “no doubt in (his) mind” it would happen.

“He’s a leader amongst leaders,” Reeson said. “One of the biggest things I talk about is there’s this quote from Gen. Mark Welch, former Air Force chief of staff. He said, ‘Leadership is a gift. It's given by those who follow. You have to be worthy of it.’ Senior Master Sgt. Hewett has plenty of followers and he is very much worthy of being a leader. That expression fits him perfectly.”