By Sgt. Grace L. Waladkewics, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, NORTH CAROLINA -- style="margin: 0in 0in 10pt; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;">Marine Transport Squadron 1 was recognized by the Naval Safety Center for surpassing 250,000 Class A mishap-free flight hours in October at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.
After 51 years of flying, the VMR-1 “Roadrunners” celebrated as they achieved a safety milestone that few squadrons accomplish.
Class A mishaps are incidents with more than $2 million in damage, there is complete destruction of an aircraft, or a fatality or permanent total disability occurs, explained Capt. Richard Hill, the UC-35 NATOPS officer.
“A big contributor to the accomplishment of the mishap-free flight hours is the quality of the maintenance that we perform on our aircraft,” said Hill.
The maintenance team responsible for working on the squadron’s UC-35D Cessna, two C-9B Skytrains, and the recently retired HH-46E Seaknights are all Marines, explained Hill.
“We are given fairly dynamic and high risk missions at times,” said Hill. “Having an all-Marine maintenance team gave us a lot of organic experience on how to maintain the HH-46E and other aircraft which materially contributed to our success and continued safety with these platforms.”
According to Hill, the squadron has been successful with mishap-free flight hours because of a combination of the command climate and well-tested aircraft.
“It’s about the basics,” explained Lt. Col. Thomas Bedell, commanding officer of the squadron. “We must remain focused on professionalism.”
According to Bedell, his Marines deliberately get it right the first time and pass down achieved milestones through several generations of Marines to continue applying safety precautions so the success can endure.
The 250,000-hour milestone, can be attributed to three main things, explained Hill.
“First, solid maintenance practices which produce a safer work environment without the need to worry about material defect,” said Hill. “Second is career resource management, and third is our robust training program. By utilizing these practices, everyone knows their responsibilities and have all the knowledge and capability they need to safely execute their mission.”
Each Marine in the squadron knows what is expected of them which leads to an end state of VMR-1 having a safer environment, said Bedell.
“I feel extremely happy to have been able to contribute to reaching this milestone, even just with my small portion of flight hours. It is a testament to the organizational culture of the unit,” said Bedell.
By consistently maintaining high standards, VMR-1 displays a culture of excellence by remaining upbeat, even when faced with challenges, and consistently rises to the occasion to ensure mission accomplishment, explained Bedell.
According to Bedell, consistently maintaining high standards and adhering to safety regulations in an aviation environment are essential.
“Whether it is maintenance or a changing timeline, there are so many unknowns in the aviation environment that we need to maintain a level of consistency,” said Bedell.
Communication and a quality training program being administered by engaged leaders within VMR-1 helps the Marines become better educated, which leads to more success.
“My goal is to have every Marine in the squadron be a better Marine and a better person for having served in the Marine Corps and in my unit,” said Bedell. “It is a sacred responsibility as a commander; you are a steward of that squadron’s legacy to maintain, add to and improve the squadron’s representation. This is a whole team effort, this unit maintains aircraft, provides administration, supply, support and various other elements, and without these Marines and our civilian Marines, it would not be possible to accomplish our mission.”