VMFA-142 takes K-Bay by storm
| Marine Corps Base Hawaii | October 14, 2000
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, KANEOHE BAY, Hi --
A squadron of F/A 18-A Hornets took up temporary residence at Hangar 105 at MCB Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Oct. 14th.
Marine Fighter Attack Squadron-142, the Gators, from Naval Air Station Atlanta, in Marietta, Ga., is honing its skills over the skies of Hawaii.
"We're out here supporting Hawaii Combined Arms Operations, and we're glad to be here," said Lt. Col. William (Jeff) Blalock, Commanding officer and pilot for VMFA-142. "The facility here has been bending over backwards to support us."
According to Blalock, 95 percent of the Marines in the squadron are active duty, but many of the pilots are reservists who fly commercial airliners for a living.
"This training evolution in Hawaii is a good change of pace," said the Decatur, Ill. native, "it beats working for a living."
The squadron is getting more missiles to shoot here in two weeks than a whole year's allocation for Marine Forces Pacific. VMFA-142 is getting so much extra ordnance, in fact, they had to augment the squadron with Marines from other squadrons. "We brought out Marines from Andrews and Dallas," said Blalock.
One of the augmented Marines, Cpl. Jorge E Castenada, a 21-year-old aviation ordnance technician, is an active duty member of VMFA-112 Cowboys, normally stationed in Dallas.
"This is one bad jet," said Castenada, "This plane can fly itself." The Santa Ana, Calif., native said the F/A18-A wields a M61A1 20-millimeter gun that can carry up to 578 rounds. The gun fires at a rate of 6,000 rounds per minute in air-to-air mode.
The aircraft can use a wide variety of weapons, from MK-82, 500-pound bombs to air-to-air missiles.
On Friday, the squadron got a chance to fire Sparrow and Sidewinder missiles at live targets over Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai.
During routine training, the Hornets fly with inert Sidewinders that have working heat seekers on their wing tips. Doing this against other fighters in the squadron is a good training tool, but the pilots begin to learn each other's moves, said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Joseph A. Galvanga, aviation ordinance officer for VMFA-142.
While they are here, they will practice with F-15's from Hickam Air Force Base. The F-15 mirrors the flight characteristics of the MiG-29, so the training with the F-15s is good for the pilots of both planes, according to Galvanga.
Another ordinance technician from VMFA-142, Lance Cpl. Christopher E. Weaver, a 19-year-old reserve Marine from Albany, Ga., said he wishes he could go active, but needs to get through school first.
"I want to get more involved and learn more. There is something new every time I come out. I love the Corps, it's awesome. Being a part of getting something done is motivating," he said. "While we were at Combined Arms Exercise in 29 Palms, they asked for volunteers, and I heard they were going to Hawaii, so I raised my hand."