Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort -- Several Marine F/A-18 Hornet pilots graduated from the Marine Corps’ premier aviation combat training, Marine Division Tactics Course (MDTC), at the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Officers’ Club, Feb. 7.
The advanced air-to-air and self-escort strike tactics course is equivalent to the Navy’s Top Gun program and has a rigorous training schedule where pilots learn both in the classroom and in the sky. The arduous course is offered twice a year, once on the west coast and once on the east coast.
Col. Bradford Gering, the commanding officer of Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One, participated in the training over the Atlantic as an adversary.
“A great thing about the core subjects at MDTC is that it makes our next fight an unfair one,” he said. “By focusing on the enemy, studying them, their equipment, technology, training and rehearsing what our next conflict could be like.”
The training is continuous and intense for the students which were comprised of pilots from various units along the Eastern seaboard. The training went from theory in classroom to practical application with the F/A-18 Hornet against aircraft the pilots may have never fought against before, including the F-5N Tiger II and F-16 fighting Falcon.
“It was challenging because we trained day in and day out for a month straight,” said Capt. Michael McMahon, a Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115 F/A-18 pilot. “It was a lot of work and prep time. Even when it’s not your event you’re still participating in one of the other students training, helping them prepare and debrief.”
Amidst the demanding course the students rose victorious against their advanced aerial instructors prepared to take their new knowledge back to their respective squadrons.
“It was definitely worthwhile,” McMahon said. “I went in thinking I was prepared for it and came out realizing there is still a lot to learn. We can always increase our skills and knowledge of how to fight other aircraft smartly.”
At the graduation, Gering challenged all graduates to work with discipline and uphold their standards, emphasizing the drive to develop themselves as professional warriors that are well versed on the tactical employment of their weapons with an indispensable ability to remain focused on the threat.
“I’m really proud of the work they have done,” Gering said at the graduation. “I saw aggressive and tactically sound flying, decision making, and employment of weapons. I was impressed. I have high expectations of you. Be a leader, mentor, tactician and an instructor.”
As each pilot approached Gering, each received their graduation certificate and the coveted MAWTS-1 patch signifying on their shoulder the advanced skills they now possess and the responsibility to pass their knowledge on to other pilots.