MCAS Beaufort, S.C. -- The Hawks of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533 were recently awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award on the flight line Oct. 25.
The award is given annually to aviation squadrons to recognize their operational excellence and exemplary safety contributions that have furthered the Naval Aviation Safety Program.
The Hawks received the award for the squadron’s achievements in 2007. The squadron passed the 20,000 mishap-free flight hours mark in June 2006 and passed the 30,000 hour mark on Sept. 11 of this year.
“We use the Operational Risk Management guidelines in executing our daily missions - all day, every day,” said Capt. Mike Oginsky, a weapons and sensors officer with the Hawks. “I think that is why we are so successful.”
What made the squadron achievements worthy of the prestigious award goes back to when the squadron returned from their last deployment to Iraq in 2006. Fifty percent of their pilots and more than 50 percent of their maintainers left the squadron after their return.
They began getting replacements in Sept. 2006 and by Jan. 2007 more than half the squadron was brand new.
“The 60 percent turnover rate meant that the squadron had to conduct a lot of training to get the new Marines up to speed,” said Capt. Kyle Haire, a weapons and sensors officer with the Hawks.
Being able to integrate so many new Marines into the squadron successfully was a key contributor in the squadron being able to fly more than 3,600 hours and employ over 600,000 pounds of ordnance without any major injuries, or Class A or B mishaps.
“We have one of the hardest working maintenance departments in the Marine Corps and they are supported by top-notch safety officers,” said Lt. Col. John Farnam, the Hawks commanding officer. “I am proud of our Marines, proud of our record at VMFA(AW)-533 and grateful for this recognition.”