MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
The Marines and Sailors of Marine Attack Squadron 231 were recognized by Boeing for achieving 30,000 consecutive mishap-free flight hours, during a ceremony in the squadron’s hangar Monday.
The award is given every 10,000 successive accident-free flight hours.
VMA-231 reached the 30,000-hour mark during a deployment with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in February 2012. While serving in southwestern Afghanistan, the squadron’s primary mission was to support the air combat element.
“We are very proud to receive this honor,” said Sgt. Maj. Dennis Bradley, sergeant major of VMA-231. “We are the oldest squadron in the Marine Corps. We’ve been around since 1919. We have received a lot of awards in our 94 years of history, but this is one that we all have witnessed.”
This is the first time in the unit’s history it has been awarded for reaching a milestone of this magnitude. It has taken the squadron a decade to accrue the 30,000 flight hours.
“In that amount of time, we have deployed to Afghanistan twice, Iraq once and sent out several smaller detachments with Marine expeditionary units,” said Bradley. “The time we’ve accumulated to receive this award has been spent not only on deployments, it includes the training flight hours we have racked up here in the states as well.”
The squadron sergeant major stressed how vital it was that all of his Marines across all sections and divisions, from avionics to ordnance, worked together to ensure the aircraft were safe to fly and back in the sky in a timely manner.
“The key to this award is teamwork,” Bradley said. “We had great teamwork from all of the Marines. The pilots were very much involved with the maintainers because they are the ones making sure their aircraft are safe for flight.”
Although the day’s ceremony focused on the award from Boeing, the commanding officer and several aviators from the squadron were also recognized and received awards separately for combat missions performed and individual mishap-free flight hours.
Bradley said the CO is the definition of a great leader, providing a great example for his Marines to emulate.
“He is one of the most experienced AV-8B Harrier aviators in the United States Marine Corps,” Bradley said. “The leadership he displays is not just that of a Marine or lieutenant colonel. The pilots look up to him and soak up all of his knowledge because of the way he conducts himself and leads flights the way he does.”
Lt. Col. Shawn R. Hermley has been a Harrier aviator since 1995.
“Lt. Col. Hermley has over 2,000 flight hours in the Harrier,” said Bradley. “Most of his time has been spent in a cockpit, not only as a commanding officer, he was also an instructor pilot.”
Bradley said the Marines of VMA-231 work tirelessly to accomplish their mission, and without those efforts, the squadron would not have received the recognition.
“The [Harrier] is an older airframe,” he said. “It is a complex aircraft. It’s difficult to pilot and maintain compared to other aircraft. That speaks volumes about the professionalism and competency of the Marines. On a daily basis, every single one of my Marines is covered from head to toe in dirt or grease, but they always have a smile on their face. I see them do amazing things, hanging upside down from the top of an aircraft just to replace an engine.”