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VMFT-401 helps train VMFAT-501

By Lance Cpl. Benjamin McDonald | Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort | August 22, 2017

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Pilots with Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 landed aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Aug. 20.

            The detachment flew to Fightertown to help train Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501. While aboard MCAS Beaufort, the training squadron will be providing real life enemy scenarios for VMFAT-501.

            “We are the Marine Corps only adversary squadron and what we do is provide a real life enemy threat for training purposes to primarily Fleet Replacement Squadrons in the Marine Corps,” said Maj. Benjamin Apple, a pilot with VMFT-401. “We have supported all sorts of units around the Marine Corps from fleet squadrons to tank battalions. But for the next two weeks we will be helping VMFAT-501 produce more students by giving them adversaries to shoot at.”

            The training syllabus for VMFAT-501 consists of classroom work and practical application with the F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. By adding real life enemies to maneuver and fight against the transition and new pilots of VMFAT-501 have to think against a real enemy and not a simulator.

            “Simulators can only get you so far when you are learning a new aviation platform,” said Maj. Ross Fearon, the executive officer of VMFAT-501. “We try and have VMFT-401 come and help us out at least quarterly. By having the Snipers provide red air the pilots have someone to think against and fight in real life and pressure on the other fleet squadrons here is alleviated. Training with the F/A-18 squadrons is beneficial but not always to them. In some circumstances our training needs will be fulfilled but not theirs and with the snipers here the F-18 squadrons can conduct their training and we can conduct ours. Everyone’s training needs are met.”

            VMFT-401 are only allowed a certain amount of flights a year so when it comes time for scheduling the squadron has to decide what training takes precedence around the Marine Corps. While aboard MCAS Beaufort, VMFAT-501 makes sure all their pilots have an opportunity to fly with VMFT-401.

            “While the snipers in town we mold our flight operations around them,” said Fearon. “We make sure all of the pilots have the opportunity to fly with them and get experience with a real life enemy. The snipers are absolutely crucial when it comes to the training of our pilots. They give an invaluable experience to the warlords. If it as up to me, I would have them permanently stationed here so we can train with them more often.”
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