MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Every year, hundreds of aviation squadrons throughout the Navy and Marine Corps compete to be one of ten squadrons to receive the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award.
This year, Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 and Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons 251 and 115 were three of the four F/A-18 Hornet squadrons to receive the 2006 CNO Aviation Safety Award.
Annually the award is given to aviation squadrons to recognize their operational excellence and exemplary safety contributions that have furthered the Naval Aviation Safety Program.
To receive the award, squadrons must have an outstanding safety record and an aggressive aviation safety program that contributes new ideas for mishap prevention for the general benefit of Naval Aviation. Consideration for CNO Aviation Safety Award requires meeting the highest standards of aviation safety. Each squadron competing for the award must also have contributions to the Naval Aviation Safety Program that include timely reporting of hazards with recommendations for corrective action, suggestions and recommendations for improvement or changes in personal survival equipment, aircraft equipment, ground support equipment, facilities, and maintenance practices and submissions for safety articles for publication.
This year, three of Marine Aircraft Group 31s seven Hornet squadrons have set the standard for F/A-18 Hornet squadrons throughout the Marine Corps.
The Silver Eagles received the 2006 CNO Aviation Safety Award for adhering to safety regulations while deployed with Carrier Air Wing Three aboard the USS Harry S. Truman, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. They also received the award for safety actions while executing full squadron deployments to El Centro, Calif., completing two post deployment at-sea sustainment periods aboard the Truman, for executing a live missile shoot and for performing two Air Combat Tactics Instructor work-up cycles.
In a dynamic and challenging environment, the Silver Eagles proved once again that missions, both combat and non-combat, can be executed safely and effectively when the appropriate risk mitigating steps are taken, according to Lt. Col. Robert Rauenhorst, the executive officer of VMFA-115.
“The CNO Safety Award is predicated on the accomplishments of all Marines and sailors within the command throughout the past year,” Rauenhorst stated. “From the NCO leadership program to airborne leadership, the Marines and sailors of VMFA-115 safely executed day and night flight operations from the austere carrier deck, to the harsh summer desert climate in El Centro, Calif., as well as supervised off-duty recreation to ensure and maintain our war fighting capability in preserving our most precious war fighting assets, Marines and sailors. The Silver Eagles of VMFA-115 are very excited to be recognized as a recipient of the CNO Safety Award.”
The recognition for VMFA-251 comes at a time when the Thunderbolts are supporting the Global War on Terrorism from the USS Enterprise, which arrived in Iraq Wednesday.
"This award signifies the hard work and dedication to excellence displayed by every Thunderbolt. I'm particularly proud of the squadron's ability to take a leading role in aviation safety during intense preparation for a combat carrier deployment,” said Lt. Col. Michael Orr, the Thunderbolts’ commanding officer. “Every Thunderbolt Marine and sailor is proud to share in this accomplishment."
The Marines and sailors of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 received the CNO Aviation Award for successful implementation of their Aviation Safety Program while deployed to Camp Al Asad, Iraq during 2005. The Hawks 2006 CNO Aviation Safety Award plaque will hang next to six other CNO Awards the squadron has received throughout the years.
“It is an honor for our squadron to receive this award,” said Maj. Mark Stanton, the squadron safety officer. “It is a test of the hardwork of the Marines who work day and night maintaining the squadron and the jets.”
The Marines and sailors of these units are placed in harms way daily, whether aboard ships, supporting combat operations in Iraq, deployed to the Far East, or just here at home. The CNO Safety Awards carry a prestigious title for squadrons going above and beyond when practicing safety. Each squadron who completes the mission by making safety or personnel and equipment their top priority celebrates the title.
"I am exceptionally proud of the three squadrons from Marine Aircraft Group 31- VMFA-115, VMFA-251 and VMFA (AW)-533- that were recognized for superior performance with 2005 CNO Safety Awards. It is fitting that all these of these squadrons were forward deployed when we were notified of their selection,” said Col. David Beydler, the commanding officer of MAG-31. “This is a remarkable achievement, and for these squadrons, it did not happen by chance. Safety never happens by chance. It comes as the result of hard work and focused leadership. MAG-31, as a whole, has done well here, and I believe that is indicative of the importance we place on safety within the group. The fact is, that in order to be a good squadron, one that in combat ready, you must be one that operates safely."