Columbia College grad leads MAGTF air element.
Rhino 6, this is Yankee 55, over.
Yankee 55, this is Rhino 6. Four jumpers, I say four jumpers away.
Roger, Yankee 55.
The Marine parachutists are mere specks in the hot, bright sky, drifting down toward a Horn of Africa pirate encampment bristling with weapons and a captured U.S. vessel.
Other Marines had swum ashore from rubber rafts to silently assess the situation. Still others wooshed down ropes from a hovering Sea Knight helicopter to swiftly secure the ship or poured out of snorting amphibious assault vehicles to attack the pirates' encampment. Cobra and Huey attack helicopters made repeated, blazing passes and a screaming Harrier jump jet came out of nowhere to take out a surface to air missile battery.
The Arch was undamaged, too.
This impressive display of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s (MAGTF, pronounced mag-taff) response to a hypothetical ship hijacking was part of Marine Week in St. Louis. Marine Week is a community outreach program that showcases the Corps’ impressive hardware while promoting American values of community, country and Corps. Visitors could also climb on an incredible array of assets including an M1A1 Abrams tank, light amphibious reconnaissance vehicle, revolutionary MV-22 tilt-rotor Osprey, CH-53 heavy lift Sea Stallion helicopter, howitzer, and attack helicopters right next to Busch Stadium.
The Marines took particular pride in recognizing the Gold Star Families of the St Louis area. Gold Star Families are those families who have lost loved ones in combat.
The week also saw Marines doing trail restoration in Forest Park, restoring community gardens and learning centers.
Col. Raymond Descheneaux, a 2010 graduate from Columbia College's MBA program, led the air combat element of Marine Week. Descheneaux says today’s Marines are different. "The young men and women volunteering to serve get it," he says. "Today's Marine is expected to fight bad guys in one corner of a city and in another take care of orphans ... They know how to reach out, they know how to adapt. They think through the secondary and tertiary effects of their actions."
Descheneaux has been pretty good at thinking things through himself. He entered the Marine Corps through the Platoon Leader’s Class, graduating from Norwich University, Northfield, Vt. with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1987. Designated a naval aviator in 1990, he went on to complete KC-130 tanker/transport training and was ordered to Okinawa. Returning from the Far East in 1992, Capt. Descheneaux was deployed to the Horn of Africa to establish and conduct famine relief operations in Somalia. He helped plan and execute an airfield seizure in Bujumbura, Burundi and the subsequent evacuation of American citizens from the killing fields of Rwanda.
"We're America's force of readiness," he says. "We're the global 911. When things go wrong, we fix it."
He's since been stationed in Fort Worth and other bases around the U.S. He has served in Iraq, the Middle East and the Balkans and graduated from both the Joint Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Va., and from the U.S. Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Ala., where he earned a master's degree in strategic studies. Today, he serves as deputy commander of Marine Aircraft Group 49 on Joint Base McGuire, N.J.
Through all these assignments, Descheneaux never gave up on an advanced civilian degree. He had started his master's degree in business administration from Columbia College–Fort Worth, but was pulled away again and again.
"I would disappear literally around the world," he says. "There I'd be in the back of a KC-130, typing away." Of all the educational options open to him, Columbia College, he says, offered a quality education with flexibility and a deep understanding of life in the military —
"Why wouldn't you choose Columbia College?" he says. His wife, Hayley, is also studying for a bachelor's degree in history online.
And like too many Americans, he's had to rethink his employment. He had previously flown for Delta Air Lines. One day he was leafing through a book with gorgeous old photos of classic aircraft from such airlines as Piedmont, Eastern, Braniff, and of course, Pan Am.
And it hit him: all those companies were gone.
"We were confronted with business models in class and I realized that with globalization, this model was broken." Delta underwent waves of downsizing and restructuring during their bankruptcy. With Columbia College's help, he says, "I left a broken business model for one that works. I strategized a game plan I could bet my family's income on."
Descheneaux currently flies with FedEx in Memphis, Tenn. — "About 60 percent FedEx, 40 percent Marines," he says. "My family and FedEx are incredibly understanding of my military commitment. Without their support, I would not be able to do this.
"The reserves are an essential part of the military today," said Descheneaux. “We continue to serve seamlessly in combat zones and forward locations around the globe. During Marine Week, we brought elements together from three reserve squadrons and four active duty squadrons without missing a beat. You could not tell the difference. There is no such thing as an A team or B team -- It’s one force. I’m a Marine, not a reservist.”