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Retired Gunnery Sergeant James Cazel To Be Guest Speaker At Memorial Day Services

Arthur High School Class of 2002 graduate Gunnery Sergeant Cazel, USMC, will be the guest speaker at this year’s annual Memorial Day Service on Monday, May 29 at 11:00 a.m. at the Arthur Cemetery.

Born in Decatur and an Arthur alumnus, he began his 20-year career in the United States Marine Corps in 2002. After completing Basic Training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California, he attended Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry at Camp Pendleton, California. In November 2002, Gunnery Sergeant Cazel was given orders to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida for “A” School as an aircraft mechanic and was assigned the Primary Military Occupational Specialty of A/UH-1 Airframes Hydraulic/Structures Mechanic upon graduation. In February of 2003, Cazel received orders to Camp Pendleton, California for “C” School and to compete specialized training for the AH-1W Supercobra and UH-1N Huey helicopters.

April 2003, he received orders to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167 “Warriors” aboard Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina and was assigned to the Airframes Division. He then deployed stateside to Marine Corps Air Yuma, Arizona and Marine Corps Base Twenty Nine Palms, California in support of multiple unit training detachments. In December HMLA-167 was activated from a non-deployable home guard unit to a fully deployable unit and received the warning order for deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It was in February of 2004 when Cazel deployed to the USS Battaan to ferry 27 H-1 Aircraft to Kuwait to push further into Iraq for follow-on operations. During stateside dwell time in November of 2004, he attended Combat Life Saver training in Monterey, California to provide critical lifesaving care while in theater during his remaining deployments with the Warriors. While attached to HMLA-167 Cazel would deploy to Combat Operations in Iraq five times to Al Asad Air Base, Al-Taqaddum, Ar-Rutbah at Camp Korean Village, Sahl Sinjar Airfield in Ninawa province, and to Afghanistan at Kandahar Airfield, Kandahar Province, and Camp Bastion near Lashkargah in Helmand Province.

He received orders in December 2009 to Marines Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 “Red Dogs” Detachment Bravo in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Here his experience and qualifications would be paramount in training the reserve component of the Marine Corps.

In June of 2011, HML-773 Det B would comply with the Base Relocation and Consolidation Plan and move sites to its new home of Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. Cazel moved with the unit as Quality Assurance and was instrumental and establishing a positive relationship between the multiple branches of the military who were aboard JBMDL.

May of 2013, his next set of orders received were to Camp Pendleton, California to receive advanced training for the H-1 Upgrades Program and would become qualified to work and train qualifications on the new AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters that would replace the legacy AH-1W Supercobra and UH-1N Huey.

In September 2013, after competing upgrades training Cazel received orders to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469 “Vengeance” Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. While stationed with HMLA-469, he would become safe-for-flight qualified in Maintenance Control and be responsible for all daily maintenance of 44 H-1 Aircraft. During his time with Vengeance, he would also become the Airframes Division Chief and supervise the professional development and well-being of over 120 Marines. He deployed overseas with HMLA-469 to Okinawa, Japan; Camp Casey, Dongducheon, South Korea; Camp Walker, Daegu, South Korea in support of the Unit Deployment Program.

In June of 2020, Cazel received his final orders prior to retirement to aid in the training of the reserve component at Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 “Red Dogs” Detachment Alpha aboard Naval Air Station Belle Chasse in New Orleans, Louisiana.

He retired from the United States Marine Corps on August 31, 2022, with 20 years, 2 Months, and 12 Days of active-duty service. His personal awards are; Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal(4), Navy Unit Commendation, Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal (6), National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Service Medal(1 Star), Iraq Campaign Medal(4 Stars), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon(8), Certificate of Commendation, Expert Rifle Badge(8), Expert Pistol Badge(5).

Upon returning to Arthur after retirement, he has been focused on making up the missed time with his wife and kids from a long and complicated career in the Marine Corps. His children have inspired him to take a role in the community by starting a charter of a national youth organization. James is currently working with various groups within the community and surrounding towns as well as other Young Marines units to establish the Arthur unit. The proposed name will be Kaskaskia Valley Young Marines.

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