MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Four enlisted Hawks from Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 received the ride of a lifetime in the back seat of the squadron’s F/A-18D Hornets, June 28.
The Marines who caught a ride, Cpls. Rebecca Green, electric shop, Sean Lee, communications and navigation, Chad Hunter, powerline and Lance Cpl. Eric Bates, powerline, work long hours on the jets so they were given the chance to fly as a thank-you from the squadron, according to Capt. Michael Russ, pilot, VMFA(AW)-533.
“These Marines got to go because, they are hard-charging war dogs,” said Lt. Col. Mark Mykleby, commanding officer, VMFA(AW)-533. “If they are going to be breaking their knuckles fixing our aircraft, we should be able to let them go for a ride when the opportunity presents itself.”
Marine appreciation is not the only reason to have enlisted Marines soar with the Hawks. It also helps them understand what pilots go through every time they step foot in a jet, according to Russ.
The weather altered the plan, but that did not stop the four Marines from seeing what it was like to be a pilot.
“We had a mission planned, but the weather kept us from doing that,” Mykleby said. “We used an alternate plan that showed them the capabilities of the aircraft. They all preformed great.”
Before going up, some of the enlisted fliers had mixed emotions and expectations about the experience.
“I was a little nervous and excited at the same time,” said Green. “I have never done anything like that before.”
After the flight all the nerves disappeared and were replaced with an adrenaline rush, according to Hunter.
“My favorite part was just the feeling you get while going through all the maneuvers,” Hunter said. “It was like a big video game with much better graphics.”
Some of the Marine’s expectations were actually met, according to Bates.
“I expected to throw up,” Bates said. “And sure enough I did. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for enlisted personnel. If I ever got another chance I’d do it again.”