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Yuma's VMA-311 wins fourth consecutive aviation safety award

19 Apr 2010 | Cpl. Austin Hazard

Yuma’s Marine Attack Squadron 311 recently received its fourth consecutive safety award, earned for its performance throughout 2009.

The Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award recognizes “operational excellence and an exemplary commitment to aviation safety,” according to All Marine Message 12/10, released April 6, 2010.

“This award is recognition that being a safe squadron is necessary to be an operationally ready squadron,” said Capt. Anthony Hatala, squadron safety officer and pilot. “When we lose people and aircraft to accidents, we lose some of our ability to provide air support for the Marine Corps.

Using a proactive safety program, the squadron had no major accidents throughout the year and contributed to the safety of the AV-8B Harrier community by filing prompt hazard reports and safety investigation reports, said Hatala.

“Marine Corps aviation has established and maintained an unprecedented safety record during the last few years of high operational tempo training and combat operations throughout the world,” said Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James T. Conway in the message. “This incredible achievement has been enabled by the professionalism of our pilots, naval flight officers, aircrew, maintenance Marines and support personnel.

Holding safety awards spanning back each of the last four years, it goes without saying that VMA-311 played its part in establishing and maintaining this safety record that the commandant speaks of.

“The guidelines and policies that have resulted in such a successful safety record were created at higher levels, but it is up to the individual commands and individual Marines to ensure they’re being carried out,” said Hatala. “There is still room for improvement, but overall, we’ve made a significant difference.”

The squadron was one of only two Harrier squadron’s in the Corps to earn the award, the other being VMA-542, based in Cherry Point, N.C.

“The Harrier community has done very well in the last year,” said Hatala. “These two squadrons stood out the most for their safety programs.”

A total of 28 Marine squadrons received the award for their 2009 safety records.

“As a pilot, it gives me confidence for my safety; as the aviation safety officer, it means I have a good squadron to work for and a good reputation to uphold; and as a member of the squadron, I’m proud of our achievement,” said Hatala.

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