CHERRY POINT, NC, UNITED STATES --
The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing held a “sundown” deactivation ceremony for Marine Attack Training Squadron (VMAT) 203, Oct. 29, 2021, marking the end of their illustrious Marine Corps service as a Harrier pilot training squadron.
As the Marine Corps transitions from the AV-8B Harrier to the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, VMAT-203’s decommissioning is a step toward the future of Marine Corps aviation, and is in accordance with the Commandant of the Marine Corps Force Design 2030.
The squadron’s origin dates back to 1947 when it was originally designated as VMT-1. The squadron has trained Marines on a variety of aviation platforms, but was officially tasked with the mission of training Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier pilots in 1983 as VMAT-203. As the Harrier has had multiple variants over the years, the aircraft has consistently been at the forefront during conflicts over the past three decades.
“We’re going on 30 plus years of the current model of the current Harrier so it’s coming to the end of its service life,” said U.S. Marine Lt. Col. Daniel Fiust, then commanding officer for VMAT-203.
In accordance with the Commandant’s Force Design 2030, VMAT-203 will transition to a Fleet Replacement Detachment assigned to Marine Aircraft Group-14 and will continue training Marines until the Harrier is fully decommissioned, which is scheduled for 2028.
“We’ve got a long history of training pilots well, and I think that’s going to continue, so I don’t think there’s any challenges we can’t overcome,” said Fiust.
Some AV-8B pilots have already transitioned to the F-35 B aircraft. The F-35 is the newest fifth-generation aircraft with innovative flight technology and lethality for Marine Corps employment, missions with our allies and partners, or combating adversary forces.
The sustained performance of the squadron is measured in Fiust’s words, “You bring together a team to accomplish a goal and you work really hard obviously, and you’re in the trenches every day.” To put this into perspective, VMAT-203 trained more than 400 pilots in the past 15 years, flew more than 12,000 flight hours and participated in eight training deployments.