MCAS NEW RIVER, N.C. --
On Jan. 16, 2023, Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River welcomed members of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and their four CH-146 Griffons, allowing them to use Marine Corps Installations East (MCIEAST) airspace for three and a half weeks to conduct their flight instructor and flight engineer course for the third time since 2018.
Due to harsh winter weather in Eastern Canada, the RCAF was less efficient in training until they partnered with MCAS New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina. 403 Helicopter Operational Training Squadron (HOTS), based out of Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada, took the initiative to contact New River regarding the flight instructor and flight engineer course and were met with enthusiasm to support the request. This is the unit’s first time returning to North Carolina for training since 2019.
“We chose to do the training here for a variety of reasons. First, working with international partners like the United States is key for the RCAF …[it] helps us to conduct some of our readiness training [here and abroad],” said Royal Canadian Air Force Lt. Col. Frederic Guenette, the commanding officer for 403 HOTS. "We are also leveraging the arguably better weather here than in Canada this time of year and are able to find efficiencies and actually complete our training much faster than if we were back home."
The RCAF pilots and flight engineers typically spend three months in Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada, learning to operate the CH-146 Griffon before being stationed with an operational squadron. During the course, trainees learn advanced tactical aircraft handling, including low-level formation flying, both during the day and at night.
“Canada in the last year has started an exchange program between pilots, between the Marine Corps and the tactical aviation community,” said Guenette. “New River is a natural site to be able to come and work on those relationships.”
While the Canadian and U.S. militaries routinely work in partnership, the 403 HOTS has a unique relationship with MCAS New River, having deployed there for training multiple times.
“It has been great for all of us to come down here, see something different, have some new experiences, and utilize different training areas and range space,” said Maj. Ryan McNeil, detachment commander for 403 HOTS. “It’s great that we had the opportunity to link in with some of the Marines down here to see the way that they do business and compare it to the way that we do things to potentially adopt some better practices or change any of the way that we do things based on what we see here. It’s been an invaluable opportunity.”
The USMC and RCAF pilots have a long and proud history of working and deploying together. The Marine Corps looks forward to continuing this proud tradition of cooperation with our Canadian allies. The joint efforts further solidified the partnership between the United States and Canadian armed forces.