There are only two others like it in the Marine Corps.
Marine Corps Auxiliary Field Bogue is one of three airfields in the Marine Corps that allow pilots to perform Field Carrier Landing Practices, or practice the ability to take off from and land on small surfaces like an aircraft carrier’s deck.
The other two airfields with the same capability are located in Yuma, Ariz., and Okinawa, Japan, making Bogue Air Field the only place on the East Coast that Marine Corps pilots can practice landing on an aircraft carrier before actually having to land on one.
"(The flight line) is painted just exactly the same dimensions and markings and everything as what the ship is going to look like when we go out there," said Capt. David Thomas, airfield operations company commander on Bogue. "By being able to do the (flight pattern) repetitiously ... on a mock ship like this before actually going out a hundred miles off the coast or in bad guy country somewhere — it really builds all that muscle memory that will make it an as safe as possible evolution for the pilots."
The training at Bogue Field is required for all Marine Corps pilots before deploying with a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) because during the deployment, they’ll be expected to land on and take off from the ships frequently.
In addition to the mock ship deck, or LHA, Thomas added that what makes an auxiliary airfield like Bogue unique is its ability to be constructed just about anywhere. Bogue serves as a model for the small airfields that Marines can construct in any location in a matter of just one week. The airfields are typically constructed in forward deployed areas, and Thomas said the ability to work fast and work from a ship is what makes Marine Corps aviation stand out from the other services.
"This is the bread and butter of what makes us Marines," Thomas said. "It’s what separates us from the Air Force — separates us from the Army — is our expeditionary nature and expeditionary mindset."
Because Bogue Field is centrally located in the Town of Bogue and only a mile or so from the densely populated Emerald Isle, Tyler Harris, community plans and liaison officer for Cherry Point, said noise complaints from area residents are expected, but not exactly common.
"We get a complaint maybe once a month," Harris said, adding that Bogue Field’s location was selected in the 1940s because it was a rural area with a small population.
However, Harris said, those circumstances have since changed, as the area has become more populated.
"The water has attracted residential growth, but residential growth is not always compatible with the training," Harris said, adding that the low patterns the pilots are required to fly during their training at Bogue Field only exacerbates the noise issue.
Harris said commanders have no intention of relocating the highly necessary field, but the governing body of Emerald Isle has gone to great lengths to ensure residents know why they’re hearing the planes fly overhead almost daily.
The Town of Emerald Isle has a page on its website — complete with an up-to-date flight schedule — informing residents about the Marine Corps flight operations.
Emerald Isle Town Manager Frank Rush said the town has strived to maintain a close relationship with Bogue Field and Cherry Point officials, a process that was simplified with the completion of the Eastern Carolina Joint Land Use Study in 2003. The study establishes land use guidelines for the military and regulations for the development of civilian properties within Cherry Point and Bogue Field training areas.
"We’ve certainly communicated our concerns to (the base) and they’ve tried to work with us as much as possible," Rush said, adding that while the governing body of Emerald Isle understands the military’s need for training, his office also has a duty to minimize the noise impact on the people who live on Emerald Isle.
Rush said that while the town has gone to great lengths to educate the people living on or visiting Emerald Isle about the frequent training taking place at Bogue Field, there are still occasional concerns coming from people living along Bogue Sound — the body of water separating Emerald Isle and Bogue Field — because the aircraft can fly lower over water than they can over land, which adds to the noise.
Rush added that although there are occasional complaints from residents, the number of complaints have dramatically decreased in recent years, in part because residents and visitors "genuinely respect the need for the military to train."