STS TASKING – MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SOUTH CAROLINA, USA

STS were tasked to provide Quality Assurance and Health & Safety Training to RN and RAF personnel based with the Joint Strike Fighter (VMFAT 501) Unit at MCAS Beaufort in the USA. STS training staff tasked to deliver the training were Paul Anderson, Julian “Taff” Roberts and Jim Bethell.

A little on what goes on at MCAS Beaufort follows;

“Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, (Fightertown) home of the Marine Corps’ Atlantic Coast fixed-wing, fighter-attack aircraft assets, is located in the heart of the South Carolina Low-country and is among the United States military’s most important and most historically colourful installations. Consisting of some 7,000 acres 70 miles southwest of Charleston, South Carolina on Highway 21, the installation is home to six Marine Corps F/A- 18 squadrons and one F-35B Fleet Replacement Squadron. Three versions of the F/A-18 Hornet are found aboard MCAS Beaufort, the F/A-18A and C Hornet and F/A-18D Hornet.

The F-35B squadron is also the only location in the world where pilots train to fly the F-35B. The squadron also trains the United Kingdom’s future F-35B pilots and maintainers. Currently, the Fightertown family consists of more than 700 Marines and Sailors along with 600 civilian personnel who ensure approximately 3,400 personnel of Marine Air Group 31 and its component squadrons and tenant units are readily deployable. “

A suite of QA courses was presented by Paul with Managing Safely and Risk Assessor’s training presented by Taff and Jim. The QA courses were presented within VMFAT 501 and both safety courses were delivered within Irby’s Inn, a US Marine Corps hotel within the station.

Serving personnel from both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force attended the courses, a total of 30 students. We were given a guided tour of the ramp on VMFAT 501 and had a good, guided tour of the F35B Lightning aircraft, up close and personal. What an amazing aircraft. We were so privileged to be allowed to
do this.

We were given a tour of the station, which is vast, as described above primarily consisting purely of US Marines plus some other wildlife that we’d never seen before – Alligators! The station has a “swamp/lake” that is the home of two Alligators. We were fortunate enough to catch them swimming and also on-land near the water’s edge. We kept our distance!

“The acreage occupied by the Air Station was formerly the site of several prominent Low-country plantations, including the Clarendon and Edgerly, Bull and Deveaux plantations. In 1779, during the Revolutionary War, British troops landed at what is now the Laurel Bay Housing area and battled American revolutionary troops at Gray’s Hill. The Beaufort area was also a staging area for both Confederate and Union troops during the civil war and elaborate plantation homes still line Bay Street, overlooking Beaufort River.”

The Air Station is in close proximity to the city of Beaufort, pronounced “Bufut”, and is virtually an island surrounded by the rivers Beaufort and Coosaw. The area is well known for the filming of the 1990’s film Forrest Gump and is renowned within the area for its seafood, especially Shrimp. The area is approximately 70 miles from Charleston and 42 miles from Savannah, Georgia. Massive swamp areas cover a vast area close to residential zones where Alligators are a problem. Nice houses all
the same!

As our training was completed by Friday, 24/3/17, we were advised by our hosts to drive to Savannah for a sightseeing trip. What a gem! Savannah is a beautiful city, steeped in history and has a massive, English heritage from the 1700’s, very Georgian. We visited “The Six Pence” pub, which was a great reminder of home, very authentic, serving British food and drink as well as local delicacies.

On the day of our return, 25/3/17, we had to return to Charleston to fly to Washington-Dulles Airport and onward to Heathrow overnight. During the day, we visited the historic and wonderful city of Charleston, Patriot’s Point and Fort Sumter that sits in the middle of Charleston bay. We sailed on a boat as part of a tour across Charleston Bay to
Fort Sumter to see this National Monument.

The attack by the Rebel Confederates (God bless the South) on Fort Sumter was the start of the American Civil War. Finally, we had a very close look at USS Yorktown, which is moored at Patriot’s Point and is open for tours. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit the ship as we had to check-in at the airport for our return home.

Sadly, we returned to Halton on 26/3/17 after a very interesting week where we visited four US States (2 in passing – New Jersey and the District of Columbia (Washington)), South Carolina and Georgia. Hopefully, we will be invited back in the not too distant future to deliver more specialist training to a wonderful part of the world.