Two instructor pilots at Luke Air Force Base are currently on very similar, rare and overlapping career paths.
Meet Marine Corps Maj. Jason Ladd and Air Force Capt. Michael McGrew. Both are assigned to the 310th Fighter Squadron, and both are participating in the Joint Service Pilot Exchange Program. In fact, McGrew was Laddâ€™s flight commander.
â€œWhen I became a Tophat, McGrew helped track my progression as a new instructor pilot teaching B-course students,â€ Ladd said. â€œHe also helped me through my single-seat forward air controller (airborne) upgrade.â€
Now, McGrew is on his way to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., to follow in Laddâ€™s footsteps. Since Ladd was previously stationed at MCAS Miramar, he briefed McGrew on what to expect from the eight months of conversion training.
â€œI told McGrew to expect to be very busy since heâ€™s about to get some of the best training in the world,â€ Ladd said. â€œHe will learn to perform in a very maneuverable jet with a robust avionics suite. Once attached to his fleet unit, he will be qualified as a combat wingman and may deploy with his squadron into theater.â€
The JSPEP moves personnel between the services to help foster knowledge sharing and increase the ability to operate effectively in a joint environment, McGrew said.
â€œI got involved in this program since I was due for an assignment, and this just happened to be available,â€ McGrew said. â€œThis particular exchange only occurs every year-and-a-half, so I took advantage of the opportunity. Iâ€™m really looking forward to flying the F/A-18 Hornet for the next three years or so.â€
Ladd, who has been stationed at Luke for a year-and-a-half, said the JSPEP has broadened his career.
â€œAlthough about 80 percent of what Marine and Air Force fighter pilots do is the same on a day-to-day basis, being here and flying a different aircraft is making me a better pilot,â€ he said. â€œThe F/A-18 and the F-16 are similar in that they are multi-role fighters specializing in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. But, exactly how we execute some of these missions can vary.â€
Both pilots said the JSPEP is a beneficial program.
â€œKnowing your enemyâ€™s tactics is the key to exploiting their weaknesses,â€ Ladd said. â€œSimilarly, knowing the exact tactics of your sister services is a huge advantage, especially in a real-world contingency.â€