MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Marine Corps Air Station Cherry
Point's most versatile flying squadron was presented with the U.S. Navy's
highest aviation safety award recently for its accomplishments during a
historic period in its life.
Transport Squadron 1 was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety
Award for its consistent mission readiness, safety-first mindset and
operational excellence while safely managing the operation of three vastly
different aircraft types during fiscal year 2015.
CNO award is given annually to each squadron or unit, afloat, shore,
expeditionary-related or safety leadership related, who displayed exceptional
execution of duties while remaining diligent in its efforts within the Naval Aviation Safety
Program throughout the entire fiscal year.
During 2015, VMR-1 was the only Marine Corps squadron
to bring Marines, Sailors and civilians together to operate medium and light
jet aircraft that deployed worldwide, as well as rotary wing aircraft that
conducted search and rescue missions.
“Marine Transport Squadron 1’s professionalism and
uncompromising commitment to safety manifest as consistently high mission
support rates and high states of readiness,” explained David Wilkerson, the
director of aviation safety at the squadron. “The squadron executes its
assigned missions professionally and safely by adhering to proven risk
management processes and safety principles allowing us to demonstrate our
command-wide focus on operational excellence.”
During the reporting period, VMR-1 successfully
conducted 28 search and rescue missions which resulted in 11 saved lives.
VMR-1 flew three different type/model/series
aircraft during FY15 including: the C-9B Skytrain, which was used to transport
aircrew and support numerous missions within and outside the continental United
States, including support to the Black Sea Rotational Force and the Marine
Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response; the UC-35D Citation, which executed
mission essential operations overseas and with Marine Forces abroad while
ensuring the safe and timely transport of high-priority passengers; and the
HH-46E Sea Knight search and rescue helicopter, which conducted range sweeps, lifesaving
operations, patient transfers, firefighting missions and static demonstrations.
According to Lt. Col. Thomas M. Bedell, the squadron’s
commanding officer, VMR-1 consistently exceeds the Chief of Naval Operations
goals in mission readiness and it embraces the best-case maintenance practices
for a safety-first mindset.
“We integrate the safety mindset into our mission
planning and operations,” explained Bedell. “It is a pro-active way of doing
business that has resulted in mastering the complexities of maintaining some of
the oldest platforms in the Fleet Marine Forces. With all the platforms
exceeding their quarterly goals for the fiscal year flight program, we were
able to significantly increase support, aircraft availability and training progression.”
According to Wilkerson, the squadron implemented other
safety precautions during FY15 including, having the aviation safety officer
fly in all three aircraft platforms to provide safety input and perspective in
both the operations and maintenance departments; having squadron personnel
identify hazards and implement controls to manage risks encountered within the
squadron; hosting weekly stand-up meetings and safety systems to enhance hazard
awareness amongst pilots and aircrew; analyzing hazard summaries; conducting safety
stand-downs; among various other procedures.
“Although mission accomplishment was of primary importance
during the period, it was never achieved at the expense of safe and sound operational
and maintenance practices,” said Wilkerson. “The Roadrunners’ application of
risk management and effective safety practices via mentorship down to the
junior ranks led to successes that extended beyond the squadron spaces. As a
direct result of the squadron’s safety-focused leadership, VMR-1 had no
off-duty mishaps or alcohol related incidents during the entire fiscal year.”
The safety precautions the squadron took helped
VMR-1 maintain a rate of zero ground and aviation related mishaps during the
fiscal year, explained Wilkerson.
With more than 20 CNO safety awards and 250,000
mishap-free flight hours under its belt, VMR-1 moved into FY-2016 with a
significant change to its mission. The
Cherry Point search and rescue helicopters had conducted their final flight on
Sept. 25 with the sundown of the Marine Corps' SAR mission in eastern North
Carolina. The squadron marked the end of
an era that day when it retired the Department of Defense's last serving H-46
But, according to Bedell, it would not be the end of
the squadron's safety-conscious operations.
"The Roadrunners of VMR-1 will continue to execute our global
support mission aggressively, expertly and safely."