The Grampaw Pettibone Squadron was honored for its May 2017 meeting to have Lt. Col Michael A. (Brittany) Spears, USMC, Commanding Officer of Headquarters Squadron MCAS Miramar, CA. The Colonel with 20 years service in the USMC – began his career as a Grunt in the Marine Corps Reserve before training as a pilot in F18 single seat and 2 seat aircraft. In addition to his F18 experience, the Colonel trained as a pilot on a special project with the Marine Corps to pilot a weaponized C130 transport. The Colonel described the aircraft which is armed with missiles and not with guns. Concluding his overview the Colonel described his current assignment, Commander of 1300 Marines in the San Diego area, responsible for the Marine Corps Air Station and all base support.
Taking questions from the audience, Colonel Spears noted his overseas experience included 2 t o u r s i n Afghanistan as well as other middle-east locations. When describing Marine Corps pilot training, he noted that before becoming a pilot all are initially trained in infantry tactics and operations. This training enables pilots supporting ground operations to have a more in-depth understanding of ground operations and the ground support role needed from air assets. The Colonel described how missions are organized and executed. Additional presentation described the features, function and mission requirements of the Marine Corps AC130 Harvest Hawk Gunship operation for close air support which is equipped with the Hellfire and Javelin missile, the Javelin modified for air operations. Included were descriptions of a number of ground support missions and the responsibility for targeting the correct objective to eliminate or minimize collateral damage.
The Colonel spent 16 plus years as an F18 pilot flying an all weather capable supersonic aircraft. His initial experience was 2 years training before fleet assignment followed by an 8 year commitment, with over 2000 hours in the F18, about 1200 hours in the C130 and more recent time in the King Air and Citation for VIP transport. The Marine Corp has 12 active duty attack squadrons and only 1 reserve squadron. In addition to discussing operational missions, the Colonel described the needs of preparing and executing operations for air shows at Miramar, particular emphasis on coordination, control and execution with all primary and support roles to provide a safe, secure and enjoyable event.
The Colonel in response to a question r e g a r d i n g f u t u r e resources, indicated the future is the F35 transitioning today and through 2023, though some operations may call for other resources depending upon the t yp e of mi s s ion assigned. Asked to describe the formation of squadron readiness, it was noted that a USMC squadron is 12 aircraft and operational readiness in the 1990s had 10 aircraft ready, while in the last 3 years it has dropped off as noted that an operational unit in which the Colonel was assigned had only 4 aircraft ready and available. The typical operational life of an F18 is 6000 hours, however, some are at 7-8000 hour history which impacts readiness. In the last 3 years, readiness has improved, though staffing levels remain virtually the same The Colonel in conclusion indicated he was very impressed with the current administration selection of retired USMC officers to serve in cabinet and staff roles.