MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz - The United States and Great Britain have long been bound together by shared history, culture, language and a similar legal system, creating one of the strongest military alliances in the world.
At Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz., the relationship between the two resonates at the individual level. Lieutenant Christopher Roy, a pilot with the British Royal Navy and currently attached to Marine Attack Training Squadron 203, has been educating Marine AV-8B Harrier II pilots the ins and outs of Marine Corps aviation.
For the past two weeks, a small detachment of Marines and sailors from VMAT-203, based out of Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C., has been conducting flight training at MCAS Yuma. This detachment has come here to utilize the advantages MCAS Yuma offers to aviation training.
“In Yuma, the flying is fantastic,” said Roy, a native of Stirling, Scotland. “The weather here is great, and the range complex is the best I have ever seen.”
Roy, currently an instructor pilot with VMAT-203, has been attached to the squadron for the past six months and will remain with the squadron for the next three years.
“I’m here, as an instructor pilot, to teach these students how to fly the Harrier,” said Roy. “It is my job to learn as much as I can while I’m here so, when my time at 203 is done, I can return back to the U.K. [United Kingdom] and take the lessons I have learnt from the USMC to our F35 force.”
In 2006, the U.K. retired the Harrier, but has recently purchased the F-35B Lightning II. According to Roy, Royal Navy pilots will spend time reacquainting themselves with the Harrier, since it operates similarly to the F-35B. Once they are prepared, they will begin training with the F-35B, with the final goal of returning to the U.K. as instructors and front line pilots on the Joint Strike Fighter.
“For me, it’s a great opportunity,” said Roy. “It’s a great plan that our two militaries have put together, and it’s fantastic to be right in the middle of it.”
According to Roy, his respect and knowledge of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps aviation continues to grow.
“There is a common goal when it comes to Marine Corps aviation. That common goal is to support their Marine brothers and sisters on the ground,” said Roy. “Every Marine in our squadron, from the student pilots down to our most junior PFC, understands that and therefore understands how their contribution helps to achieve the overall effect. That is hugely impressive.”