Sgt. Benjamin Bonilla attentively listens over the radio as his student gives a pilot clearance to land on the runway. He watches the Marines hands through the dim light as they glide over the brightly colored keys on a control panel as he kept a smooth reassuring tone with the pilot preparing to land.
Bonilla is an approach controller assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 28, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. He has successfully completed all the training required of him as an approach controller and moved on to completing certifications for the other elements of air traffic control within the Marine Corps.
His passion for teaching other ATC Marines and dedication to his work has driven him to completing all his certifications within his ATC assigned field and other elements outside of his designation.
"Teaching is my favorite part of the job," said Bonilla. "Even though we are not degreed educators, we are still responsible for critical training for these Marines. 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."
Air traffic controllers are given approximately 12 years to become Marine Administrative Message compliant. ATC Marines must be proficient and certified in all positions of air traffic controlling within the Marine Corps.
Bonilla has completed his training in only four years while aboard the air station.
"Here on Cherry Point, we pride ourselves in being an advanced training facility," said Bonilla. "We have a lot of Marines strive to get qualified in everything while stationed here even when it’s not required of them. If you are willing to work for it, you can do anything you want in this unit, and I am grateful for that opportunity. 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 pay off. "
According to Bonilla, the Marines at ATC have been the biggest positive impact on his career. 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," said Bonilla. "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."