Harriers return to Cherry Point after final deployment

CHERRY POINT, N.C. (WITN) – The final deployment for Harriers at Cherry Point wrapped up this morning with the six jets returning home to Eastern Carolina.

Six AV-8B Harrier pilots were part of a seven-month float with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The MEU supported operations in the Arctic and Baltic regions.

The vertical-lift aircraft, which the Marine Corps started using in the early 1970s, is being phased out for the F-35B Lightnings. Marine Attack Squadron 542 will transition to the F-35B’s at the end of the year.

Families of the pilots welcomed them home as the jets taxied up to the hangars at Cherry Point.

Tammy Garman, an Air Force pilot, explained that meeting her husband, who is also a pilot, was love at first sight.

“We were sitting at the end of the runway and it was a long day and I took my helmet off to fix my earpiece, when I looked over and I saw [him] next to me and we were kind of staring and then he pointed at me and he shot me a ‘call me,’” Garman said.

For Madison Clark and four other families, this homecoming was seven months overdue.

“Even though he’s out there doing what he loves, I was home holding down the fort,” Clark said.

The deployments for these families are now in the rear view mirror, with the focus now on family, friends, and for Capt. Ian Sharbel, “probably going to go back, get some Chick-fil-A, get a beer, and just enjoy being back home with the family.”

The Harriers were part of a 100-person detachment to the aviation combat element of the MEU which also included helicopters and tiltrotor aircraft from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing which is headquartered at Cherry Point.

Our original story said this was the last Harrier deployment for the Marine Corps. The article has been updated to say it was the last Harrier deployment from Cherry Point.

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