OKINAWA, Japan -- Military occupational specialties (MOS) are the foundation of the Marine Corps. Each MOS is a cog, working with and relying on each other to keep the fighting machine that is the United States Marine Corps running. Pilots are one such MOS.
Marine Corps has had a need for pilots since A. A. Cunningham was named the Marine Corps father of aviation in 1912. Since that time, the Marine Corps’ aviation rapidly grew with advances in technology.
“The type of flying a Marine Corps pilot does is unique,” said Maj. Daniel Groeling, a pilot with Headquarter and Headquarters Squadron, Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. “A pilot goes through the same basic training as every other Marine officer. So if something changes during a mission and a decision needs to be made, we can think like the Marines on the ground. We know what they need and the different options they can take. This allows us to be the support need when they need it.”
Marine Corps pilots are unique in the aspect that only officers are offered the chance to become a pilot. A pilot’s contract begins the day they graduate their final pilot school and receive their wings. The schooling can take years to complete.
Capt. Benjamin Vigil, a pilot with H&HS, MCAS Futenma, said that he joined the Marine Corps in 2009 and received his wings in 2012. Between 2009 and 2012 he went to seven different schools for flight and survival training.
“The training is comparable to every day being an exam day,” said Groeling. “Even if you pass all the classes and flights, the Marine Corps may say that you are not at their standards. If that happens you are assigned a new job. It’s a challenge, it might be the most challenging thing a Marine could ever do.”
With all the challenges that pilots face just for school, it is understandable that a Marine could be cautious about joining the ambitious field. However, Marines thrive in the face of challenge and overcome it. Pilots are a key part of the overall mission readiness of the Marine Corps and are used to transporting people, equipment or providing air support.
“Flying becomes a passion for many people,” said Vigil. “The Marine Corps allows a person to do it with exciting aircraft challenging missions and the ability to fly high-performance aircraft. Getting a job done is very rewarding. When returning from a mission with passengers and mission gear, you touch down and you know that you brought your cargo home safe. It is the best feeling.”