MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. --
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, received its first F-35B Lightning II jet at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, May 31.
VMFA-542 is the Marine Corps’ first East Coast operational F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter squadron. The arrival of the first aircraft marked the beginning of F-35 deliveries to MCAS Cherry Point, continuing 2nd MAW’s operational transition from legacy fixed-wing tactical aircraft to the F-35. VMFA-542 received its second aircraft June 1.
The F-35 is a fifth-generation fighter jet with advanced stealth, agility and maneuverability, sensor and information fusion, and provides the pilot with real-time access to battlespace information. It is designed to meet an advanced threat, while improving lethality, survivability, and supportability.
Lt. Col. Brian Hansell, officer in charge of VMFA-542, grew up in Paradise, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University in December 2004 with a degree in computer engineering. He attended Marine Corps Officer Candidates School in January 2005. After completion of The Basic School and naval flight training, he reported to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, for F/A-18 Hornet training.
Hansell completed F/A-18 Hornet training in 2010 and reported to the VMFA-122 “Crusaders” where he served in various assignments and deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and to Iwakuni, Japan, as part of the Unit Deployment Program. He surpassed 1,000 flight hours in the F/A-18 and graduated from Marine Division Tactics Course and Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) Course during his time with VMFA-122.
Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling
Capt. Brian Hansell and Capt. Albert Garcia IV, both Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122 F/A-18 Hornet pilots, passed the final requirements to receive the fighter attack instructor designation. The criteria for the designation was set forth by Marine Aviation and Weapons Tactics Squadron 1 and Marine Corps Training and Education Command.
Hansell reported to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 in Eglin, Florida, in 2014 and completed F-35B Lightning II transition training shortly thereafter. He stayed on staff with VMFAT-501, serving in various assignments to include the pilot training officer of the “Warlords.”
In May 2017, Hansell reported to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, where he was responsible for the development and instruction of air-to-air employment tactics for the F-35. He served in various assignments, to include the F-35 division head. While serving at MAWTS-1, Hansell augmented Marine Fighter Training Squadron (VMFT) 401 as a Marine adversary pilot, flying the F-5N Tiger II. His accomplishments at MAWTS-1 include the development of multiservice air-control communication standards; the extension of the WTI curriculum for F-35 pilots; Commander, Naval Air Forces authorization for lights-out training at night for tactical-air support pilots; and continued tactics development in close coordination with both the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy weapons schools.
Hansell reported to Headquarters Marine Corps Aviation, Washington, D.C., in July 2020 to serve as the F-35 Transition Task Force lead. While there, he oversaw the planning and resourcing of the TACAIR transition to the F-35, assisted with the prioritization and development of future F-35 capabilities, and served as an F-35 subject-matter expert across multiple departments.
In July 2022, Hansell reported to Marine Aircraft Group 14 to serve as the officer in charge of VMFA-542 after the official transition of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542 from an AV-8B Harrier squadron to an F-35B squadron Dec. 1, 2022.
Hansell has held the highest tactical qualifications for both the F/A-18 and F-35. His decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal/Strike Flight Numeral 5, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (second award), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and various unit and campaign awards.