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Cpl. Charles Ulrich, a flightline mechanic with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron VMM-261 (Reinforced), 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, works on an AH-1 Super Cobra helicopter Jan. 13, 2012, here. The Sparta, N.J., native said he joined the Marine Corps because he wanted to work on helicopters and be a Marine like his grandfather. The unit’s upcoming deployment will be the first time the Iraq war veteran will deploy with a MEU.

Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein

Faces of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Part two: Cpl. Charles Ulrich, a flightline mechanic

15 Jan 2012 | Sgt. Richard Blumenstein

Cpl. Charles Ulrich keeps ‘birds’ from falling out of the sky. The Sparta, N.J., native serves as a flightline mechanic with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261, (VMM-261), 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and has the critical job of ensuring helicopters meet all the required safety standards to be flown continuously. In a nutshell, he ensures the aircraft are safe to fly, so his fellow Marines in the air don’t have to worry about a malfunction. “We do what we call a D and T, or daily turnaround inspection, so for tomorrow when this bird flies we make sure it’s safe for flight,” he said. “It’s about always keeping the birds in the air.” The Iraq war veteran enlisted at 17-years-old during his senior year at Sparta High School and left for Marine Corps boot camp two months after his graduation. He said his decision to join the Marines centered on a combination of his desire to work on helicopters and inspiration from his grandfather, a former Marine. “I wanted to do something new, and see new places, and work on some badass aircraft,” he said. “Since I was a kid I always wanted to work on aircraft… I actually called the recruiter and told them I wanted to enlist. My grandfather was a Marine and I heard about it from him." Ulrich got exactly what he asked for from his recruiting office. He now lives his childhood dream: working on million-dollar military aircraft and helping to keep the skies safe for the Marines on the ground. “We work on fuel, engines, rotating components …,” he said. As a flightline mechanic he works to ensure anything and everything with the helicopters works right – swapping faulty engines and rotor blades, reporting electrical problems, and so on. Ulrich currently is working to accomplish those missions during the Realistic Urban Training (RUT) exercise, scheduled Jan. 5-20. The exercise serves to prepare and certify the Marines and Sailors of the 24th MEU for the various operations they may conduct during their upcoming deployment. “I’m hoping to go to some cool places and different countries and enjoy my time out there,” he said. “This job doesn’t really change where we go. It’s always the same thing, so it would be cool to do it in some new places.”