The U.S. 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing deactivated Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 101, a historic F/A-18 Hornet training squadron, Sept. 29, 2023. Since 1969, instructor pilots of the VMFAT-101 “SharpSHooters” have qualified combat aviators and sent them to operational squadrons worldwide. The squadron commemorated the event by “flying the barn,” launching 18 aircraft in a single flight. More than 300 Marines, Sailors, veterans, family members and community supporters then gathered for a sundown ceremony to commemorate the squadron’s history and contributions to Marine Corps readiness. Since October 2019, VMFAT-101 has trained Navy and Marine Corps aviators as the only remaining F/A-18 Hornet Fleet Replacement Squadron in the Department of the Navy.
“Thousands of aircrew have passed through the halls of VMFAT-101—fighter pilots, fighter radar intercept officers, fighter weapon systems officers, and it’s bigger than that. This squadron has trained more maintenance Marines than any other in the Marine Corps. It’s a holistic approach to ensure we are ready to fight and win,” said Brig. Gen. Robert B. Brodie, Assistant Wing Commander of 3rd MAW.
“Pilots come to VMFAT-101, cut their teeth, and are transformed into aviation warriors,” said Col. William J. Mitchell, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd MAW.
“We’re standing on the shoulders of giants. You helped shape the ‘SharpSHooter’ legacy,” said Lt. Col. Ryan J. Franzen.
Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 (VMFAT-101) is based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 11 (MAG-11) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW). The training mission of VMFAT-101 will transfer to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 323, a 3rd MAW operational squadron at MCAS Miramar. As outlined in the 2022 Marine Corps Aviation Plan, the Hornet will continue to operate and provide combat capability until its complete transition to the F-35 Lighting II in 2030. Brodie is an F/A-18 pilot and served as commanding officer of VMFAT-101 from 2011 to 2013. He and Lt. Col. Ryan J. Franzen, the final commanding officer of VMFAT-101, were joined by ten former VMFAT-101 commanding officers and two spouses representing their late husbands.
VMFAT-101 was commissioned at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California on January 3, 1969, as part of Marine Combat Crew Readiness Training Group 10, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. The squadron trained naval aviators and naval flight officers in the employment of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. During the summer of 1970, VMFAT-101 moved to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona. On September 29, 1987, VMFAT-101 returned to MCAS El Toro to beginning training as the Marine Corps’ dedicated F/A-18 Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS). On March 31, 1988, MCCRTG-10 deactivated and VMFAT-101 joined Marine Aircraft Group 11. By October of that year, the Sharpshooters owned 21 F/A-18s, had trained 25 qualified instructor pilots and were ready to begin training new Hornet pilots. By May 1989 VMFAT-101 graduated 23 new F/A-18 pilots and accumulated over 11,000 mishap free Hornet flight hours. With three times the number of aircraft of a typical F/A-18 squadron.