SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Marines at Miramar said goodbye to a little piece of history this week, as the historic F/A-18 training squadron was deactivated during a ceremony Friday afternoon.
For more than 50 years, instructor pilots of the VMFAT-101 “Sharp Shooters” have qualified combat aviators and sent them to operational squadrons worldwide.
On Friday, a sundown flight ceremony — where pilots took the aircraft up for a “last hurrah” — commemorated the squadron’s history and contributions to Marine Corps readiness since its commissioning in 1969.
“There’s nothing sad about the squadron going away,” said Major Brian Radler, F/A-18 instructor pilot. He has been with the Marine Corps for 16 years and with the squadron for three years. “It’s a celebration of the history that it’s had … the contribution that it’s had to the Marine Corps.”
FOX 5 was able to fly along during the ceremony. Video from that experience can be viewed in the player above.
“The fleet operations would not exist without VMFAT-101, so having an opportunity to pass the knowledge that we’ve gained over a decade of experience to young pilots that are going out to fleet operations is something you can’t replace,” Radler added.
This deactivating of the training squadron comes as the Marine Corps continues its transition from the F/A-18 to the F-35 Lighting II.
With the new aircraft, the training mission of VMFAT-101 will move to the Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, a 3rd MAW operational squadron at MCAS Miramar.
According to the military branch, that transition should be completed by 2030. In the meantime, the Hornet will continue to operate and provide combat capability.