News: Marines', sailor's dedication pays off with ride of lifetime
Story by Lance Cpl. Daniel Flynn
Three Marines and one sailor with Marine All Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 got the chance of a lifetime, Feb. 17, a flight in an F/A-18D Hornet fighter jet.
The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Squadron, regularly with Marine Aircraft Group 12, deployed to Utaphao Airfield, Thailand, with MAG-36 in support of exercise Cobra Gold 2009, a joint, coalition exercise focused on promoting regional peace and stability in the Pacific region.
The four service members were awarded the back seat rides because of a squadron incentive program offered by VMFA(AW)-242.
Petty Officer 1st Class Juden Ramos was the Marine Aircraft Group 12 Sailor of the Year in 2007.
Cpl. Mathew Van Dyke was awarded Marine of the Quarter for the 3rd quarter of 2008.
Cpl. Aaron Van Gundy was meritoriously promoted in December and Lance Cpl. James Brewer was meritoriously promoted in September.
When the unit notices that a specific Marine is doing an outstanding job, the Marine's accomplishments are evaluated to decide if they merit the opportunity to ride in an F/A-18D, according to Master Sgt. Rene Benedit, squadron ordnance chief for VMFA(AW)-242.
If it is determined the Marine does rate the jet ride, a package is put together and sent to 1st MAW headquarters for approval.
Before getting into a jet, all preflight requirements must be met.
Requirements include flight suit fittings, medical screenings and aircraft briefings, Benedit said.
"For a maintenance Marine who works on these aircraft on a daily basis, the chance to fly in one is worth its weight in gold," he said.
The general consensus on the hour-long flight - "it was awesome" - the answer given by everyone when asked what they thought about the flight.
"It was an amazing, once in a lifetime experience," Brewer said.
"We did everything except drop ordnance," Van Dyke said.
According to Benedit, the incentive flight program is an outstanding morale builder that motivates the Marines to continue bettering themselves in every aspect.