MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Above the skies of Beaufort and over the seas of the Atlantic, Lowcountry residents may hear the roar or witness the sight of an F/A-18 Hornet from Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 224 prowling the Carolina skyline.
For more than 25 years, the Hornet has been a part of the Navy/ Marine Corps air command. It has flown three times more than any other Navy tactical aircraft.
The Fighting Bengals of VMFA(AW)-224 keep this record true with blood, sweat and tears dedicated to turning the wrenches that keep their Hornet’s flying high.
The statement “ the sound your hear is the sound of freedom” is engraved along the front gates of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort as a visual reiteration of their hard work and the Hornet’s capabilities.
“I get to hear exactly how loud they can get when they launch from the runway next to us,” said Lance Cpl. Diontae Trawick, avionics technician, VMFA(AW)- 224. “The sound they make can ring your ears but it feels good when I see one of our’s fly-out.”
As an avionics technician, Trawick is responsible for more than 60 percent of the aircraft’s systems.
“I work on the flight controls, the air data systems, and a lot of circuit breakers,” Trawick said. “Every day I come to work I have a chance to learn something new.”
There are more than nine divisions that make up a maintenance squadron. They are Powerline (engine mechanics), Airframes (aircraft constructors), Seat shop (cockpit repairers), flight equipment (flight gear repairers), Ordnance (weapons technicians), Quality Assurance (maintenance inspectors), Maintenance Administration (flight data maintainers), Maintenance Control and Avionics.
“We have a shop to work on every part of the aircraft,” Trawick explained. “When we get a chance to work together, it feels like family.”
The Marines of VMFA(AW)-224 have more than ten aircraft they are responsible for maintaining throughout the year. When the aircraft come back from flight, Marines from every maintenance division are assigned different tasks to get the aircraft ready for the next flight.
“For every one hour of flight time, our Marines complete about ten hours of maintenance,” said Staff Sgt. Christin Busk, maintenance controller, VMFA(AW)-224. “As a controller, I make sure that every repair is made before flight.”
The Bengals are required to maintain their aircraft at 100 percent readiness all year, even while training at different locations.
“When we go to MCAS Yuma, Ariz. we get some of the best hot weather training there is,” Trawick said. “It gets up to 90 degrees before the sun comes up.”
The Fighting Bengals of VMFA(AW)-224 work six days a week and almost twenty four hours a day, divided amongst two crews to keep their squadron at full mission capability.
“The Marines of ’224 are some of the best I’ve ever worked with,” said Staff Sgt. Noel Micheal, avionics non-commissioned officer in charge. “They are outstanding.”
As long as the boom of the Hornet exists, the Marines of VMFA(AW)-224 can be found in Fightertown’s backyard, continuing to work on the “sound of freedom.”