It’s an ethos, passed from one generation to the next, and Gunnery Sgt. Jeffery Bean has been around for most of it.
That’s how Marine Attack Squadron 231 earns distinctions like the one the unit received Monday at Cherry Point.
Boeing presented an award to the men and women of VMA-231 for having 30,000 accident-free flight hours. Local Boeing manager William “Woody” Woodall made the presentation to the unit commanding officer, Lt. Col. Shawn Hermley.
The honor is one that took more than a decade to accomplish, and Bean has been a part of the squadron for the last 15 years.
“It means a lot,” Bean said of the award. “It means that for the last 10 years the Marines have really been concentrating on trying to do the job the right way. Doing things the right way the first time makes the difference. And the staff and (commanding officer) and leadership of the squadron instill that in the young Marines as the turnovers happen throughout the years. When the next group comes in, they have the ethos, those values that they pass on to the next group, and it continues to carry on.”
Maj. Ryan Hough, a pilot of one of the squadron’s AV-8B Harriers, said Bean’s leadership made the award possible.
“He was raised with the institutional culture of 231 and has been passing it on as the staff NCO really since 2005,” he said. “He’s been passing it on, and when he moves on, the Marines that he’s been training will step in and train the next generation.”
Hough said that many of the pilots in the squadron work side-by-side with the mechanics, developing a level of communication that is unprecedented.
“That institutional culture goes from one generation to the next,” Hough said. “It’s not just lip service. It’s how we do business.”
Sgt. Maj. Dennis Michael Bradley said Marines working together made the award possible.
“With these maintainers it takes teamwork, and with these pilots, the same thing,” he said. “If one Marine fails to do their part of this huge puzzle, then that could mean a mishap. Most importantly it could mean the loss of an aircraft or a pilot, which nobody wants.
“If every Marine doesn’t do their part every time they’re on the tarmac or in the cockpit or turning wrenches on the aircraft, then it affects everyone and would ruin a decade’s worth of hard work and dedication that the Marines who have come before us have put into this squadron.
“We are the oldest squadron in the United States Marine Corps. We’ve been around since 1919. We have received a lot of honors in that time, but this one we all can witness. We’re very proud of it. We just celebrated our 94th anniversary on our deployment to Afghanistan. The Marines that have come before us have established a legacy that we have to uphold. We take that very seriously and we know that it reflects very positively on the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing as a whole.”
The Harrier is known for its ability to hover, take off and land like a helicopter, but that versatility can also make it a difficult aircraft to fly and repair.
“I think the complexity of the aircraft, how difficult it is to pilot compared to most other aircraft and how difficult it is to maintain because it is an older airframe speaks volumes about the professionalism, competence and hard work that these Marines and pilots put into these aircraft,” Bradley said. “Every day almost every one of my Marines is covered from head to toe in dirt or grease, but they always have a smile on their face. I’ve seen them do amazing things hanging upside down on an aircraft replacing an engine. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Individual awards were also given to pilots and mechanics.
“I think that a milestone like this, 30,000 flight hours, speaks to the quality and the training of both the maintainers and the air crew, the safety practices that are involved, the tremendous advances that have been made in this aircraft over the years and the professionalism of all the Marines that are involved in this program,” said John Gumbel, Boeing representative to the 2nd MAW.