June 12, 2012

Marine Corps, Air Force pilots temporarily swap services

by SrA. Melanie Holochwost
Luke AFB, Ariz.

Marine Corps Maj. Jason Ladd, left, and Air Force Capt. Michael McGrew pose for a photo next to an F-16 Fighting Falcon June 6 at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Ladd is currently participating in the Joint Service Pilot Exchange Program at Luke AFB and McGrew is leaving the base to start the program at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif. Both men are 310th Fighter Squadron instructor pilots.

Two instructor pilots assigned to the 310th Fighter Squadron are currently on very similar and overlapping career paths at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., as part of the Joint Service Pilot Exchange Program.

Air Force Capt. Michael McGrew is on his way to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., to begin the JSPEP, and Marine Corps Maj. Jason Ladd is currently participating in the program here.

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.

“I got involved in this program since I was due for an assignment, and this just happened to be available,” McGrew said. “This particular exchange only occurs every year-and-a-half, so I took advantage of the opportunity. I’m really looking forward to flying the F/A-18 Hornet for the next three years or so.”

Besides both being a part of the exchange program, the pilots have another tie. Ladd, who has been stationed here for about 18 months, said McGrew was his flight commander when he arrived.

“When I became a Tophat, McGrew helped track my progression as a new instructor pilot teaching B-course students,” Ladd said. “He also helped me through my single-seat forward air controller (airborne) upgrade.”

Now McGrew is following in Ladd’s footsteps. Since Ladd was previously stationed at MCAS Miramar, he briefed McGrew on what to expect from the eight months of conversion training.

“I told McGrew to expect to be very busy since he’s about to get some of the best training in the world,” Ladd said. “He 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.”

Ladd said the JSPEP has broadened his career.

“Although 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,” he said. “The F/A-18 and the F-16 (Fighting Falcon) 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.”

Both pilots said the JSPEP is a beneficial program.

“Knowing your enemy’s tactics is the key to exploiting their weaknesses,” Ladd said. “Similarly, knowing the exact tactics of your sister services is a huge advantage, especially in a real-world contingency.”

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