of our old friends, Ramon, is an aviator in the Marine
Corps. Ramon is stationed at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS)
Beaufort, SC and is currently flying the F/A-18 Hornet.
Ramon was nice enough to host us at his facility and give us a
The photos below are what we saw.
were camped at Hunting Island State Park about 20 miles from MCAS
Beaufort. To get back to the mainland, we had to cross
several "draw bridges". Rather than raising and lowering,
these bridges rotated in the horizontal plane when shipping
traffic needs to pass. The bridge in the photo above is an
example of a rotating bridge. Once on the far side of the
bridge, you are in the City of Beaufort.
need to speak with the civic planners; their placement of power
lines ruined an otherwise nice photo of their city facilities.
were strict restrictions on what I could and could not
photograph. So, erring on the side of caution, most of the
photos below are non-controversial. Capt. Ramon Ballester is
on the right. Ramon is with squadron VMFA(AW)-224 and is currently
based at MCAS Beaufort. The folks at the facility are very
safety conscious and therefore we were required to wear "cranials"
(AKA a helmet with built-in ear and eye protection). Ramon
was nice enough to give us a tour on his day off. We got a
number of briefings on operational areas, group history and got to
see a video of a training missile run (inert laser-guided bomb) as
seen through the plane's targeting pod display. Very cool.
cranial totally makes her outfit. I was happy for the
cranial a bit later in the tour when we were walking under the
wings and nearly clocked my forehead. And, on the flight
line, the ear muffs were needed.
could not photograph any open bays on the aircraft and since every
plane in the hangar was being serviced, that reduced the number of
photo opportunities. But, the landing gear on the F/A-18 is
an engineering work of art. These struts are subjected to
tremendous forces during carrier landings and must absorb all the
were able to view into the cockpit of of the aircraft, but not
photograph. Needless to say, there are tons of complex, and
in some cases, classified gadgets that the pilots must master to
perform their tasks.
ladder going up is steep and scary and has long steps between
rungs making ascent and descent a caution-filled task.
saw a number of aircraft in Ramon's squadron that were undergoing
repairs and/or maintenance in the hangar. Some actions were
minor, some were as major as engine replacement. After the
hangar, we went out on the flight line to see what was going
on. Above, a fuel bowser tops off a plane from another
is the flagship plane for VMFA(AW)-224 ("The Bengals") and sports
the squadron pattern. This plane belongs to the "big guy",
the colonel in charge of this squadron as well as 5 other
squadrons. Each squadron consists of about 200 personnel as
well as the aircraft. This set of squadrons is collectively
called a MAW or Marine Air Wing. Squadron personnel consist
of the pilots, maintenance crews, support teams and
were a number of aircraft on the flight line that were fully
checked out and ready to fly.
on another portion of the tarmac there were a number of other
aircraft that were being serviced.
F/A-18 is an awesome war machine and is capable of dropping a lot
of ordinance on enemy targets. There are a variety of
configurations of this aircraft and crews can switch
configurations is about 2 hours to meet operational
requirements. The wing tips carry AIM-9 heat seeking
missiles and the pylons below the wings are configurable for a
variety of mission-specific weapons including air-ground missiles,
laser bombs, gravity bombs, target designation equipment,
etc. In addition, a 20mm mini-gun is mounted in the nose of
the aircraft; the bore of the gun is visible directly above the
center of the nose cone at the junction with the fuselage.
our position on the tarmac, we could see crews from another
squadron performing a "run-up" on a newly installed power plant
(AKA "jet engine"). Run-ups are required to insure that the
installation process was performed correctly and that the plane
will be safe for a test flight prior to being returned to service.
Ballester's call sign is "Fiesta".
had to get a photo in front of Ramon's plane without our cranials.
was deployed in Afghanistan with the Headquarters
detachment. And he has flown from carriers in the western
Pacific as part of one of his tours.
parting shot of his plane before leaving the facility.
we were done on base, we headed into downtown Beaufort for
food. Ramon chose a nice restaurant on the waterfront.
In the marina were some very large boats, especially the one to
the left of center in the photo above. When we were done
with lunch, we headed back to our ocean-front campsite for the
|Trip Home Page|
Photos and Text
Copyright Bill Caid 2012, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.