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Capt. Joshua Hazeldean Wins 2021 Marine Aviator of the Year
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Brandon Aultman
July 12, 2021

The Alfred A. Cunningham Award is one of, if not the highest honor Marine aviators can achieve during their career. To be selected for this award, which also carries with it the title of Marine Aviator of the Year, is no small feat.

For U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Joshua Hazeldean, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, it’s the result of years of hard work and dedication. And like all great pilots, he had to start from the ground up.

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Joshua Hazeldean, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, in front of an AH-1 Super Cobra, Marine Corps Base Hawaii on June 16, 2021. Hazeldean was recently awarded the Alfred A. Cunningham Award, and named 2021 Marine Aviator of the Year. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Aultman.)
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Joshua Hazeldean, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, in front of an AH-1 Super Cobra, Marine Corps Base Hawaii on June 16, 2021. Hazeldean was recently awarded the Alfred A. Cunningham Award, and named 2021 Marine Aviator of the Year. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon Aultman.)

Hazeldean grew up on a small farm, in a small town called Vevay, Indiana.

“It’s considered a ‘one stoplight town,’” said Hazeldean, “We literally got our first stoplight when I was in high school— it was a big deal.”

Although he didn’t have much experience with aviation, Hazeldean still dreamed of taking to the skies at a young age. It all started with an elementary school field trip to the Cincinnati/Kentucky International Airport.

“At the airport, there is a spot close to the runway where you can park and watch the planes take off,” said Hazeldean. “I remember being amazed watching these giant commercial airliners depart, wondering how it was possible for something that large to get airborne, and how exciting it must be to fly.”

That one experience left Hazeldean wanting more, but he was never sure if he could actually make a career out of flying.

“Following that, it was always my dream to pursue aviation as a profession,” said Hazeldean, “but I never seriously thought it would become a reality.”

Upon setting foot in his first aircraft, the thought of failure weighed heavy on Hazeldean’s mind.

“I honestly remember just being stressed out, because I wanted to do well and succeed,” described Hazeldean, “and I didn’t want to underperform before I even started flying a military aircraft.”

That pressure only served to drive him forward and mold him into the outstanding aviator and Marine that he is today. Throughout his career, Hazeldean found and followed the advice of those he looked up to.

“Capt. Hazeldean is a steady, stoic, and precise Marine Corps Aviator,” said U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Ralph Tompkins, commanding officer of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269. “Unflappable under any challenge, and has the uncanny ability to bring the right level of focus and grit to any tactical mission, but still make it fun and meaningful for the student.”

Hazeldean’s enthusiasm towards flying is only rivaled by the pride he has in his unit and its history.

“HMLA-367 is the best flying squadron in the Marine Corps,” said Hazeldean. “Scarface has a remarkable history in Marine Corps aviation, beginning as Marine Observation Squadron 351 during World War II, then flying Hueys and Cobras during Vietnam, all the way through to recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Capt. Hazeldean serves as an example of what all Marine Corps aviators strive to be. He puts his heart and soul into learning and teaching his craft, taking care of his fellow Marines, and accomplishing the mission.

“That sincere dedication to duty and the mission shines through him at all times,” said Tompkins, “Phenomenal Cobra Pilot; even better mentor, instructor, and leader of Marines.”

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