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    Last Marine Corps weapons systems officers earn Wings of Gold at NAS Pensacola

    Last Marine Corps weapons systems officers earn Wings of Gold at NAS Pensacola

    Photo By Jason Bortz | PENSACOLA, Fla. (Sept. 24, 2021) Marine 1st Lt. John Roger Rueckel III is pinned with...... read more read more



    Story by Ensign Jahanna Conner 

    Chief of Naval Air Training

    The Marine Corps’ last weapons systems officers (WSO) received their Wings of Gold along with 10 naval flight officers (NFO) during a ceremony at the National Naval Aviation Museum aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, Sept. 24.

    Marine 1st Lt. Michael LoGrande and Marine 1st Lt. John Roger Rueckel III, respectively, are the last two Marines to graduate with the “Sabrehawks” of Training Squadron (VT) 86 in Pensacola marking a historic moment in Naval Aviation.

    A WSO sits in a jet’s aft seat and is responsible for managing the weapons systems, navigation support, communications, and have direct involvement with all air operations.

    LoGrande, from Alexandria, Virginia, commissioned through the Platoon Leaders Course (PLC) May 5, 2018. After graduation from Emory & Henry College and entering the Marine Corps, he began training to become a WSO. LoGrande has a long family history of military service and said he looks forward to supporting his fellow Marines during his time in the military. Logrande’s father, retired Marine Col. Michael Logrande, pinned on his Wings of Gold.

    “Like all Marines, I would like to do the best job I can, be part of the team and contribute to the long legacy of aviators that have come before me,” LoGrande said.

    Rueckel, from Hamburg, New Jersey, commissioned through Platoon Leaders Class (PLC) Combined Sept. 22, 2018. His grandfather, Benjamin Harty, was a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division during the Korean War. Much like his grandfather, Rueckel said he wanted to serve his country in the most exciting way possible, and that motivated him to become a WSO. Rueckel’s wife, Madeline Murray, pinned on his Wings of Gold.

    “I am grateful to mark the end of a long, esteemed line of fantastic men and women,” Rueckel said. “While nothing I have done makes me any different than the thousands of WSOs that came before me, I carry the title with pride and hope to learn from those more experienced than me.”

    LoGrande and Rueckel will both report to the “Sharpshooters” of Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101 at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, California, to begin postgraduate WSO training in the F/A-18D Hornet.

    Commodore, Training Air Wing 6 Capt. Kenneth Russell presided over the ceremony.

    “Today’s winging of the last two Marine Naval Flight Officers begins the closing of a chapter in Marine Corps aviation,” Russell said. “I have no doubt that these two fine aviators will be exceptional stewards of the F/A-18-D Hornet’s winning legacy and its decades of combat success.”

    All aviation students begin undergraduate flight training with the Naval Introductory Flight Evaluation (NIFE) program under Naval Aviation Schools Command aboard NAS Pensacola. NIFE includes fundamental aviation knowledge, introduces military procedural-based training and performance standards, and provides aeronautical adaptability screening. Marine Corpus student WSOs continued to the “Wildcats” of VT-10 for primary flight training and subsequently to VT-86 for intermediate and advanced strike training.

    As the Marine Corps continues to transition from the F/A-18 Hornet to the F-35 Lightning II, the need for a WSO military occupational specialty (MOS) will come to an end. This historic occasion is consistent with the Marine Corps’ commitment to optimizing and modernizing its force for strategic competition.

    The last female Marine Corps WSO, 1st Lt. Brenda McCarthy, graduated from VT-86 May 27. McCarthy is currently in postgraduate WSO training at MCAS Miramar.

    VT-86 trains the world’s finest combat-quality naval flight officers, committed to global security and prosperity, and projecting naval air power worldwide.



    Date Taken: 09.24.2021
    Date Posted: 09.24.2021 13:47
    Story ID: 405989
    Location: CORPUS CHRISTI, TX, US

    Web Views: 4,767
    Downloads: 1