CHERRY POINT, N.C. (WITN) – Troops in one part of the east said a formal goodbye to an aircraft after 50 years of service.
Marine Attack Squadron VMA-542 at Cherry Point Air Station held a re-designation ceremony for its AV-8B Harrier Fighter Jet.
The squadron will transition to the Marine Corps’ first East Coast operational F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter squadron over the next several years.
VMA-542 has used the Harrier Jet since 1972 to provide air strike defense in Desert Shield, the War in Iraq, and most recently deploying to provide assistance in the Ukrainian conflict.
Former commanding officers and pilots, current pilots, and their families gathered together for one final salute.
Some of the pilots spoke about closing the door on this chapter for the Corps.
“To shut the door on this chapter of the legacy. It was an extreme honor,” said Maj. Dan Belet, a VMA-542 Harrier Pilot.
“It’s sad. I’ve been in the Marine Corps 28 years now. You join the Marine Corps because of Uncle Sam, apple pie, freedom. But you stay in the Marine Corps for the Marines and the camos and the flight suits. That’s what keeps you in. It’s going to be sad to leave, but I’ll be back,” said VMA-542 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Trevor Felter.
Felter says two of the three Harrier Jets will be put into preservation in case they need to be recommissioned for a war emergency.
The third will be stripped for parts for other fighter jets, with the body of the plane kept at Cherry Point.