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Marines’ Aviation Chief Called For More Maintainers Hours Before KC-130 Crash
Just hours before the KC-130 crash that claimed the lives of 15 Marines and a sailor in Mississippi on June 10, the retiring three-star general in charge of Marine Corps aviation published a farewell letter stressing the need to bolster the service’s aviation readiness — and saying the Corps needed more, and better-trained, aircraft maintainers.
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis wrote the letter as a reflection on his 37-year military career in Marine aircraft. He has served since 2014 as the deputy commandant for aviation, amid Budget Control Act sequestration, decreased pilot retention, and reduced flight hours.
After taking command of the Corps’ air assets three years ago, Davis wrote, he initiated readiness reviews of five of the service’s key air platforms. “A key finding common to all of these reviews,” he wrote, “emphasized the importance of retaining highly qualified enlisted maintainers.”
Each report “discovered a lack of Marines possessing the requisite skills our ready force demands, causing us to reestablish and increase our benchmarks,” he wrote. But he cautioned that the problem wasn’t with the Marines working in squadrons today: “This is less an issue of individual capability and is more strictly related to density of personnel.”
Aviation mishaps continue to plague the Corps. The Marines had nine major aircraft crashes, resulting in 14 fatalities and 11 lost aircraft, between February 2016 and February 2017, Military.com reported. And the Naval Safety Center saw seven Class A Marine aviation mishaps — incidents that involve a fatality, loss of aircraft, or $2 million in damages — since October 2016 alone.
Davis has been outspoken about these issues for years.
“Average aircrew flight time has reached historic lows,” Davis testified in a House Armed Services Committee hearing on aviation readiness in July 2016. “Every lost day, every missed hour, is missed experience this nation depends upon in the future.”
But just as Davis’ tenure came to a close this week, the Marine Corps experienced its worst aviation disaster in a decade, when the KC-130 Hercules transporting personnel and equipment from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina to Naval Air Facility El Centro in California exploded in mid-air over Mississippi.
“The KC-130 has one of the lowest mishap rates of all Marine Corps aircraft,” Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns said in a statement. “Over the past 15 years, there have been only three Class A Flight Mishaps involving all Marine Corps models of the C-130, including the crash on July 10th. In 2002 there was a mishap in Pakistan which resulted in 7 deaths and a mishap in California with no fatalities.”
Clearly, something has changed.
“Fixing the problem requires both tracking the qualifications and retention of these enlisted maintenance leaders,” Davis wrote. “We cannot get to the finish line without the hard work and dedication from each and every Marine and Sailor who continue to work tirelessly to keep our aircraft safe and flying and their families who continue to show love and support when it is needed most.”
A Minnesota Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with three Guardsmen aboard crashed south of St. Cloud on Thursday, said National Guard spokeswoman Army Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens.
At this time, the National Guard is not releasing any information about the status of the three people aboard the helicopter, Heusdens told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
The Pentagon's latest attempt to twist itself in knots to deny that it is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East has a big caveat.
Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said there are no plans to send that many troops to the region "at this time."
Farah's statement does not rule out the possibility that the Defense Department could initially announce a smaller deployment to the region and subsequently announce that more troops are headed downrange.
The Navy could deploy a second carrier to the Middle East if Trump orders an Iran surge, top admiral says
The Navy could send a second aircraft carrier to the Middle East if President Donald Trump orders a surge of forces to the region, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Thursday.
Gordon Lubold and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal first reported the United States is considering sending up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to deter Iran from attacking U.S. forces and regional allies. The surge forces could include several ships.
I didn't think a movie about World War I would, or even could, remind me of Afghanistan.
Somehow 1917 did, and that's probably the highest praise I can give Sam Mendes' newest war drama: It took a century-old conflict and made it relatable.
An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps
"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."
Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.
At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.
Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.
"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."
She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."
It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.
The culture of the Marine Corps is ripe for analysis. A 2015 Rand Corporation study found that women felt far more isolated among men in the Corps, while the Pentagon's Office of People Analytics noted in 2018 that female Marines rated hostility toward them as "significantly higher" than their male counterparts.
But the center's report, Marines' Perspectives on Various Aspects of Marine Corps Organizational Culture, offers a proverbial wakeup call to leaders, particularly when paired alongside previous studies, since it was commissioned by the Marine Corps itself in the wake of a nude photo sharing scandal that rocked the service in 2017.
The scandal, researchers found, was merely a symptom of a much larger problem.