Frederick, Md --
The Marine Corps is always seeking to recruit the best and the brightest. This can be a difficult task in fields like aviation, where private industries and the U.S. Air Force and Navy have already established well-known brands.
“A lot of people think of the Marine Corps and they think infantry. They think of the ground, when in fact thirty percent of Marine officers are pilots,” said Capt. Ian Merry, the officer selection officer for Recruiting Station Frederick.
In a move to generate greater public awareness about Marine Corps flight programs, Recruiting Station Frederick’s Officer Selection Office teamed up with the 4th Marine Corps District Flight Orientation Program, also known as MCFOP, and brought realistic flight simulators to West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, Jan. 23.
“The whole purpose of the program is to maximize awareness for prospects and influencers. ,” said Capt. Richard Jacobs, the 4th Marine Corps District aviation assistant for officer procurement. “The primary goal is lead generation and to help out the Officer Selection Officers with gaining those interested prospects.”
Jacobs, a Millville, Pennsylvania native, originally focused on scheduling one-hour presentations on Marine Corps Aviation at colleges throughout the 4th MCD coverage area. During a trip to Bowling Green State University Jan. 23-26, 2014, he decided that the approach could be improved upon.
He pitched the idea of simulators to the 4th Marine Corps District marketing team who agreed it would be a worthwhile investment in officer recruiting. He had found a more engaging way to reach students during college visits.
“I wanted to get (the students) more involved. The (Marine Corps Recruiting Command) policy letter stated that I already had sims at my disposal.” said Jacobs.
Events like these allow students with an interest in Marine Corps aviation direct on-campus access to speak with the OSO or the aviation assistant for officer procurement.
In the past, the program consisted of flying civilian planes into small airports near colleges. However, this only allowed a limited number of students to interact with the visiting Marine Corps Pilots. The simulators allow aviation assistants like Jacobs to reach and interact with a much larger group of officer prospects.
The video-game-like technology is also a draw for the students. Over eighty students and faculty operated the two simulators during the four-hour aviation enhanced area canvassing event, and future engagements with the simulators look promising.
According to Jacobs, MCFOP is in a state of evolution right now. They are currently expecting a fully enclosed flight simulator in mid to late March for the more serious candidates.
“Being able to bring these simulators out and having Captain Jacobs, a real pilot, out here helps us spread the word,” said Merry, a Salem, Massachusetts native. “It’s all about creating awareness.”
Abdullah Lasharari, an English major at WVU and a native of Saudi Arabia, signed up to test his skills as a pilot.
“It’s really hard to balance,” he said while flying the helicopter simulator. “I liked the controls on the fighter jet better.”
Marine Corps Pilots undergo the longest and most extensive training in the Marine Corps. There are three training schools a candidate must attend. The first is a six week basic aviation course. The Marine officer will then choose which type of aircraft they will fly. This will determine the length of schooling for Primary Flight Training and Advanced Flight Training. Training will take one to two and a half years.
“Maybe if I keep practicing, this could be a path for me,” said Caston Burns an international studies student from Manassas, Virginia.
For more information about becoming a pilot in the Marine Corps go to MarineOfficer.com.