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Roles in the Corps: Fixed-Wing Pilot

[Capt Fox]:
My MOS, the designation is 7509, it's Harrier pilot. After The Basic School, I moved to Pensacola, Florida, for API, Aviation Preflight Indoctrination. That's a ground school that all pilots go through before they actually get in the cockpit of an aircraft. It's a six-week-long course learning the fundamentals of aviation, aerodynamics and so forth. And then from there, I moved on to Corpus Christi, which is in southern Texas, for my primary flight training. Primary flight training is where all pilots begin after their ground school. We fly a propeller plane; it's called a T-34. And that was a six-month course. Then after there, everyone splits off in whatever direction they take, whether it's helicopters, C-130s; jets, my path was jets.

Flight school was very competitive, especially if you're striving to get into the jet community. They make it difficult by simulating emergencies and so forth, to try to make it as realistic as possible and to basically test your ability to think under pressure and maneuver the aircraft under pressure. First you learn how to safely fly the aircraft but the whole reason why we're flying it is to employ it so once we know how to fly and land the jets safely, our main focus is learning how to employ the weapons that it's capable of employing: the bombs, the missiles, what have you.

What makes the Harrier special is the fact that it is V-stall aircraft; it can take off and land vertically. It's the only jet as of now in the world that can do that. We don't even need airfields. We're the only ones that are gonna be able to land on a highway and safely load up, refuel and take back off. The Harrier is unique in that our number one mission is close air support. We have the ability to drop our ordnance, drop our bombs in very close proximity to where we want them to be, within I'm talking feet, which is great for us and the Marines on the ground because a lot of times we're dropping ordnance in close proximity to our friendlies-to the Marines on the ground.

Being a pilot, there's a lot expected of you. And when we're being critiqued in our debriefs, we're looking at absolutely everything: our airspeeds, our altitudes-we have to be on exact parameters. If we're releasing bombs, let's say, we're looking at the point I released the bomb, and am I at the right altitude, the right airspeed, is my dive correct. In the Marine Corps, you're a Marine first, then you're an aviator. We all go through The Basic School, we all become riflemen and that's something that ties us together. We're all pilots but we're Marines first. There has never been one day where I have not been excited about going to work and that's something I'd say most people cannot say about their jobs.