MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Four pilots with Marine Attack Squadron 223 are currently in the midst of an intense five- to seven-week course to become certified as weapons training officers.
In order to become a weapons training officer, the pilots must give three lectures, similar to preflight briefs they will give in the future; they must conduct four flights in simulators, practicing everything from close-air support to aerial interdiction; and they must fly two training flights – one armed reconnaissance and one basic conventional weapons delivery.
Once certified, the pilots say they will be greater assets to their unit, both in training environments and in operational theaters abroad.
In deployed environments, being a weapons training officer better “gives you the ability to analyze weapons’ impacts, malfunctions and helps you know what you use for effect,” said Capt. Alexander M. Mellman, the pilot training officer for VMA-223.
Marine aviation is a key component of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force’s ability to accomplish any mission in any clime or place. For decades, the AV-8B Harrier has been a key part of that mission.
The Harrier is a testament to the close-air support mission, providing immediate accurate firepower in support of Marines fighting on the ground.
Capt. Jason T. Schulze, a student in the certification course and the quality assurance officer for VMA-223, described the training as “very challenging, but very rewarding.”
“We are learning how to analyze on a different level than we had previously,” said Schulze.
After the work-ups, the pilots will face certification over a week and a half at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., with an instructor from Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1.
Once they become certified weapons training officers, the pilots say it will significantly change their roles in the squadron.
“I look forward to taking a more active role in training junior pilots who will be deploying with me,” said Schulze.