MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
The "Ace of Spades" vs. the "Seahawks," the AV-8B Harrier vs. the EA-6B Prowler – twas a gentleman's "Feats of Strength" competition for squadron and aircraft supremacy, featuring aircraft tire flipping galore, relay races and more on the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point flight line, Jan. 23.
The Spades of Marine Attack Squadron 231, fliers of the Harrier, and the Seahawks of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4, fliers of the Prowler, share a hangar – a squadron standoff seemed inevitable.
“It builds camaraderie, it gets us out of the shop and it’s some good, friendly competition,” said Sgt. Stephen Fink, an engine mechanic with VMA-231, who feels he’s renowned for his tire running. “I’ve been in almost every competition and have had three victories.”
The competition includes running relays and lifting and flipping different sized tires from aircraft aboard the air station, like Harriers, Prowlers and the KC-130J Hercules.
Lance Cpl. Anthony Lafrancis, an ejection seat mechanic with VMA-231, competed in the KC-130J tire flipping, which was the last event in the race and the closest.
“I knew while I was flipping the tire I had to keep it from wobbling,” said Lafrancis. “That tire was so big all I could hear was it hitting the ground. I knew I had to just keep going until the whistle blew.”
All he could think of was how fast the guy next to him caught up considering how heavy the tire was, he said.
The Spades started with a strong lead, but the Seahawks caught up in the end making it neck-and-neck, until they eventually fell to the Spades with less than a half tire lead.
The spoils for the Spades? – the ‘A.A. Cunning Ham’ – a ceramic pig with a sticker of VMA-231’s “Ace of Spades” logo on the side.
“This competition is supposed to be fun and emphasize the importance of being in good shape,” said Maj. Ryan Hough, VMA-231 maintenance officer and a supervisor of the event. “It gets Marines out of the shops, they can have some fun, emphasizing esprit de corps.”
The competitions, which VMA-231 began having in October 2011, are seasonal, said Fink.
“In October we had the pumpkin toss, in December the Christmas tree toss," he said. "Each one is different and made up by the Marines in the shops.”
Shaking hands and joking about the pig trophy afterward, the Marines already began planning for next month’s “Feats of Strength.”