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Final Marine Harrier pilots finish training, set to join last squadron

The final two AV-8B Harrier II pilots finished training on Friday, receiving the last 7509 military occupational specialty designation reserved for qualified pilots of the aircraft, according to a statement from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Capt. Joshua Corbett and Capt. Sven Jorgensen completed the training at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. The final flight assessment — conducted by the AV-8B Harrier II Fleet Replacement Detachment, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing — was a low-altitude, close-training sortie, according to the statement.

“The significance of the last replacement pilot training flight in the Harrier community is that it is the beginning of the end for us as a community,” Corbett said in the statement. “The Harrier, more than many aircraft than I have come across, elicits an emotional response. … All good things have to come to an end, and it’s our turn soon, but not yet.”

Both pilots will report to Marine Attack Squadron 223, also known as “the Bulldogs.” The Harrier squadron will be the last of its kind in the Marine Corps and is slated to continue operations through September 2026, according to the statement.

The Marine Corps will transition away from the vertical/short takeoff and landing tactical attack aircraft and the F/A-18C/D Hornet aircraft as it moves to the F-35 Lightning II by the end of fiscal year 2030, Marine Corps Times previously reported. Some Harrier and Hornet squadrons have already been deactivated as part of these moves.

The Harrier first arrived at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, in 1984. Harrier pilots have supported numerous operations across the globe, including Operation Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force in the former Yugoslavia, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to the statement.

“It is exciting to see our last two students graduate from the FRD and hit the fleet,” said Lt. Col. Nathaniel Smith, the commanding officer of Marine Attack Squadron 223. “Our team of pilots, maintainers, and supporting staff have done outstanding work in supporting both the FRD and VMA missions here.”

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