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U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Johnson Truong, an air support operations operator with Marine Air Support Squadron 3, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, coordinates fire missions from the Multifunction Air Operations Center in support of Exercise Steel Knight 23.2 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 6, 2023. The MAOC provides expeditionary aviation command and control and air surveillance to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force. Steel Knight 23.2 is a three-phase exercise designed to train I Marine Expeditionary Force in the planning, deployment and command and control of a joint force against a peer or near-peer adversary combat force and enhance existing live-fire and maneuver capabilities of the MAGTF. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Childs)

Photo by Cpl. Daniel Childs

First Generation Legacy: 3rd MAW Marine Forges His Own Path

25 Jan 2024 | Cpl. Daniel Childs 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Johnson Truong is an air support operations operator with Marine Air Support Squadron (MASS) 3, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native. It is fitting that Truong hails from a city with as much historical significance to the U.S. as Harrisburg. His family legacy was shaped by sacrifice and commitment to a stable life in the United States. 

Truong’s grandfather, Thanh Truong, is a veteran of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, a branch of the South Vietnamese military which was trained and advised by the U.S. military until the fall of Saigon in 1975, marking the end of the Vietnam War. Thanh Truong endured nearly a decade of captivity as a prisoner of war, held by the Viet Cong. 

"If the United States had not given my grandpa the opportunity to come here, my parents wouldn't have met and I wouldn't even be where I am today,” Truong said. “That's why I felt like I had to give back in some type of way, and for me, military service was the way to do it." 

Truong’s parents moved to Harrisburg from Vietnam after the Vietnam War, looking for a fresh start. Truong is a first generation American and the first Marine in his family. 

“I was able to join the military right out of high school,” Truong said. “My parents had to work day-in and out to provide me that opportunity."  

Truong is training in preparation to deploy as part of Marine Rotational Force—Darwin, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force forward postured in Darwin, Australia. His role as an air support operations operator involves coordinating fire support missions and communicating with ground units to ensure airspace safety. 

In December 2023, Truong participated in exercise Steel Knight 23.2, coordinating fire support missions for joint aircraft from the multifunctional air operations center. 

"My dedication to coordinating missions aligns seamlessly with my passion for attention to detail,” Truong said. “In this high-stakes environment, every aspect requires careful coordination, just like working on cars back home. It's about ensuring every component fits perfectly, whether it's a mechanical system or a complex mission plan." 

As Truong embraces his role in the Marine Corps, he says he finds a sense of purpose by remembering his family’s sacrifices and in helping others. 

"There are a lot of days when I just want to hang it up, but like every service member says, 'when it gets tough, always remember the why,' and one of my 'whys' is my family, and the sweat and tears they faced coming here,” Truong said. “I know when I put on the uniform every morning, I'm doing something for myself, my family and for the ones that came before me." 

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