MOAA members learn about the life of a Marine fighter pilot

Rett Benedict

Colonel Martin Lenzini (USMC Retired), a resident of our neighbor SaddleBrooke Ranch was the speaker for our first meeting in the Catalina Room of the refurbished Mesquite Grill on Saturday, December 16. He showed the first indication of his future as a fighter pilot by climbing trees and riding the roof of the El in Chicago, a fitting start for a Marine destined to earn four distinguished flying crosses and 24 air medals.

After graduation from University of New Mexico, Colonel Lenzini joined the Marines and learned that “Every Marine is a Rifleman.” It was during this training when he saw a jet fly overhead, he decided “That is my calling” to be a Marine Aviator. After training on multiple aircraft and qualifying for carrier operations, he headed for a 13 month tour in Vietnam. 350 combat missions, mostly flying close air support and 450 flight hours led to his multiple medals. As he told us, no mission starts out as a DFC mission; it is what you do when the mission goes horribly wrong that might lead to the honor. On one of his missions like this, he was delivering bombs onto a gun position with 50 caliber bullets and tracers whizzing by on each side of his aircraft. He scored a direct hit on the gun emplacement and a DFC!

Having gained experience in combat, Colonel Lenzini was assigned to developing weapon tactics for multiple aircraft and then as a Squadron Commanding Officer. During the latter assignment, they often had to train former helicopter pilots into fixed wing pilots so they could think at 400 knots instead of 80. “Most learned to do that,” he said.

Colonel Lenzini retired with 26 years of service to his country and went onto a successful career at Hughes Aircraft and Raytheon. It was a very entertaining and informative presentation.

The next Catalina Mountains Chapter of MOAA meeting will be held on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 11:30 a.m. in the Catalina Room of the Mesquite Grill in the MountainView Country Club Complex, 38759 S. MountainView Boulevard, Tucson, Arizona 85739. The speaker will be CW2 Gino Elsea (USA Retired), who served 20 years in the U.S. Army with assignments in Conventional, Airborne and Special Operations units and then in DoD Civil Service on the Joint Staff, Afghanistan-Pakistan Task Force (Pentagon).

For additional information, contact Colonel Rett Benedict, President, 825-7424, [email protected] or Colonel Bill Nagy, MOAA Treasurer, 355-5064, [email protected]. Check website: for information.

The Catalina Mountains satellite is part of the Tucson Chapter and encompasses northwest Tucson to include Catalina, Oracle, parts of Oro Valley and Marana, SaddleBrooke and Sun City.

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) is a nonprofit veterans’ service association dedicated to maintaining a strong national defense and to preserve the earned entitlements of members of the uniformed services and their families and survivors.