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Air Force pilot trades in F-15 for Marine F-5 in Yuma

By Lance Cpl. Aaron Diamant | | October 22, 2009

When Air Force Capt. Ryan Corrigan was informed he had been accepted into an exchange program to fly with the Marines for two years, his superiors told him to show up with an open mind. After all, the Marines have a different way of doing things.

But after reporting to Marine Fighter Training Squadron 401 three weeks ago from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, and flying more than a dozen missions with the Snipers, Corrigan has been refreshingly impressed by the Snipers and their operations.

Marine pilots are typically given a short ‘what not to do’ list prior to flights, said Corrigan, whereas Air Force pilots get a long restrictive list of the things they are allowed to do. It gives Marine pilots more flexibility.

Corrigan, a Bridgton, Maine, native, was picked from a list of four other Air Force pilots for the position in a highly competitive selection process, said Lt. Col. Michael Legens, the Snipers’ executive officer.

Corrigan’s experience as an F-15 Eagle pilot is largely limited to air-to-air engagements. Flying with the Snipers will expose him to most missions Marine aviators typically fly, which are mostly in support of ground operations, said Legens.

The F-5 flies a lot like the F-15, said Corrigan. The F-15 has more thrust, but the F-5 has better lateral control in lower speed maneuvers. The F-5 is also much smaller than the F-15, making it harder to see from the ground while flying.

The exchange program with the Air Force is continuous and rotates pilots out every two years. It gives pilots the opportunity to share their insight and experience in the methods and styles of the other service. This allows pilots to be better prepared to support each other in joint operations.

Corrigan is currently completing his F-5 qualification course, and is slated to fly in support of the next Weapons and Tactics Instructor course, as well as various other support missions the Snipers regularly take part in.

“I think it’s cool that I can be an effective training aid to the different units we fly with,” said Corrigan. “It gives me a different perspective and the ability to see what units need for training. That way, when pilots take their Hornets and Harriers to war, they will be better prepared.”

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