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Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 detached from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., for training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, May 9 through 22. The training allowed air traffic controllers to familiarize themselves with the vertical and short takeoff and landing pattern that VMAT-203 AV-8B Harriers share with F-35s as the squadron conducted air-to-air and familiarization training.

Photo by Cpl. Sarah Cherry

VMAT-203 flies to Beaufort for training

22 May 2014 | Cpl. Sarah Cherry

Marine Attack Training Squadron 203 detached from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. for training aboard MCAS Beaufort, May 9 through May 22.

The training benefited both Marine Aircraft Group 31 and VMAT-203. Because MCAS Cherry Point held a three-day air show May 16-18, VMAT- 203 wouldn’t have had the freedom of open skies to train.

“The value in this exercise is that we are able to continue training pilots on the platform,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Johnson, the sergeant major of VMAT- 203. “We probably would have lost three or four days’ worth of training at minimum without coming here.”

VMAT-203 is a training squadron for AV-8B Harriers, which are single-engine ground-attack aircraft with vertical or short takeoff and landing capabilities. Despite primarily functioning as attack aircraft, pilots are required to be proficient in air-to-air fighter com¬bat as well.

The squadron brought instructor pi¬lots, student pilots and familiarization student for the exercise. Familiarization students flew with instructors in the two-seater trainer version of Harriers, TAV-8B, to get experience with the aircraft before flying on their own.

“This detachment helped us get not only the air to air training that we needed, but also allowed for familiarization training with newer pilots,” said Maj. Trevor Felter, operations officer for VMAT-203. “This detachment also helps MCAS Beaufort and Marine Aircraft Group 31 prepare for the F-35 Joint Strike Fight-er through an understanding of the vertical take-off and landing patterns which the Harrier shares with the JSF.”

The mission of the squadron is to effectively prepare aviators to operate the Harrier in the fleet Marine Force.