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Hawk aircrew heads to NAS Fallon for Top Gun training

By Lance Cpl. Dane M. Horst | | April 12, 2007

Air-to-air threats aren’t prevalent in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, but as always, Marine aircrews must remain vigilant in preparing for tomorrow’s battlefield.

A small group of Fightertown Marines are attending a school in the skies of Nevada that will give them the necessary training to give them the upper hand when combating any air-to-air forces they might face in the years to come.

An aircrew from Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 will experience 10 weeks of the Navy’s premier tactical flight training school, Top Gun, at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nev., and gain knowledge to effectively engage the enemy anywhere in the world. Six Hawk maintenance Marines are also being sent to represent Marine Aircraft Group 31 at the Top Gun combined maintenance shop.

“We are looking forward to attending Top Gun because this is an excellent opportunity for us to learn graduate-level air-to-air tactics and the tactical execution and employment of the F/A-18’s weapons for all of the jet’s different mission sets,” said Capt. Shane Bursae, the Hawk’s weapons and sensors officer attending Top Gun.

The mission objectives that Top Gun focuses on are strike coordination and armed reconnaissance, or SCAR; close-air support for ground personnel; normal armed reconnaissance; and strike fighter tactics, which teaches advanced air-to-air combat maneuvers to the students, according to Bursae.

“The maneuvers that we learn at Top Gun are directly related to what we have to do in Iraq and Afghanistan to support our Marines on the ground,” said Capt. Noah Marquardt, the Hawk’s pilot attending Top Gun.

The training that the Hawk aircrew will receive is similar to the training that Marine Hornet squadrons go through during the Weapons and Tactics Instructors course taught at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

The main difference is WTI teaches the aircrew how to be a part of the Marine Air Ground Task Force, while Top Gun focuses more on the mission sets of squadrons while on an aircraft carrier, Bursae explained.

Six Hawk maintenance Marines are being sent to join the aircrew April 30 to June 15 in support of the Top Gun combined maintenance shop and also to maintain the jet VMFA(AW)-533 will send for to use throughout the aircrew’s training.

“I am really exited to have this chance to go to NAS Fallon to support the Top Gun program and our aircrew while they are going through their training,” said Sgt. Ryne Barker, a collateral duty inspector with the Hawks.

“This will also allow (the maintenance Marines) the opportunity to work with the different units and personnel supporting Top Gun,” Barker said. “No matter what field you work in, you can learn new techniques and ways to accomplish your overall mission that can be faster or more efficient whenever you work with different people besides your normal day-to-day peers.”