News | July 10, 2024

2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Marines Receive Last AV-8B Harrier Pilot Designations

By 2nd Lt. John Graham with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing

The AV-8B Harrier II Fleet Replacement Detachment (FRD), Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), graduated March 29 the final two pilots to receive the 7509 Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina.

Capt. Joshua Corbett and Capt. Sven Jorgensen completed their final training flight at the FRD in order to receive the 7509 MOS, which is reserved for AV-8B Harrier II qualified pilots. The flight, a low-altitude close air support training sortie, represents the culmination of the Marines’ training at the FRD.

“The significance of the last replacement pilot training flight in the Harrier community is that it is the beginning of the end for us as a community,” Corbett said. “The Harrier, more than many aircraft than I have come across, elicits an emotional response. For members of the public, members of the aviation community, members of the Marine community, and especially members of the Harrier pilot community, it’s bittersweet. All good things have to come to an end, and it’s our turn soon, but not yet.”

The Harrier is a vertical/short takeoff and landing (VSTOL) tactical attack aircraft. The first AV-8B Harrier II arrived at MCAS Cherry Point in January 1984. In their 40-year presence in the eastern North Carolina region, 2nd MAW Harriers, and the 7509s that pilot them, have supported numerous operations across the globe, including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force in 1999 in the former Yugoslavia, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Corbett’s and Jorgensen’s designation represents 2nd MAW’s continued operational transition from legacy fixed-wing tactical aircraft, such as the Harrier.

As the Harrier transitions out of the Fleet Marine Force, its role is being filled by the F-35B Lightning II. Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 223 will be the last Harrier squadron in the Marine Corps and is set to continue operating the platform through September 2026. Until then, the platform will continue to call MCAS Cherry Point home and execute deployed operations as part of Marine Expeditionary Units.

“I am incredibly proud of the legacy of the AV-8B, both within Marine Aviation and here in eastern North Carolina,” said Lt. Col. Nathaniel Smith, the Commanding Officer of VMA-223. “Our platform is part of the fabric of eastern North Carolina, as countless Marines, sailors and civilians have contributed to our success for decades. It is exciting to see our last two students graduate from the FRD and hit the fleet. Our team of pilots, maintainers, and supporting staff have done outstanding work in supporting both the FRD and VMA missions here at VMA- 223, and I look forward to us continuing to support 2nd MAW and the MAGTF at home and overseas.”

Both pilots will report to VMA-223 after completing the FRD syllabus.

Written by 2nd Lt. John Graham with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing