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Making history: US Air Force pilots fly F-35Bs aboard USS America

U.S. Air Force Capt. Spencer G. Weide, left, and Capt. Justin J. Newman, F-35B Lightning IIs pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), pose with an F-35 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during routine operations in the eastern Pacific, Oct. 6, 2019.  Amphibious assault ships, such as the America, provide flexibility to the joint force by supporting a spectrum of air operations from fifth generation jets to heavy lift helicopters.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Spencer G. Weide, left, and Capt. Justin J. Newman, F-35B Lightning IIs pilots with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), pose with an F-35 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during routine operations in the eastern Pacific, Oct. 6, 2019. Amphibious assault ships, such as the America, provide flexibility to the joint force by supporting a spectrum of air operations from fifth generation jets to heavy lift helicopters.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

EASTERN PACIFIC --

Hundreds of Marines and sailors embarked aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America. Among the sea of naval warriors stood two service members who see the sky as home.

U.S. Air Force Captains Spencer G. Weide and Justin J. Newman, both pilots assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., made history as the first operational Air Force pilots to fly the F-35B Lightning II aboard an amphibious assault ship as part of an integrated training exercise aboard the USS America in the Eastern Pacific on Sept. 27, 2019.

“This is a unique opportunity for the Air Force to integrate with Marines and sailors overseas,” said Weide, with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 122, Marine Aircraft Group 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

The two-week exercise allowed the pilots to refine their skills and apply their training to an integrated naval environment.

“Integrated training like this is important because we operate off of a ship, and we get to learn the naval and Marine warfare functions.” said Newman, with VMFA-122. “This will allow us to return the knowledge back to the Air Force for better future integration.”

Launching aircraft from ships allows the Navy and Marine Corps to project air power across the globe. Amphibious assault ships, such as the America, provide flexibility to the joint force by supporting a spectrum of air operations from fifth generation jets to heavy lift helicopters.

That’s all part of the superior training the pilots received, Weide added.

Integrating the Marine Aircraft Wing’s combat power and capabilities with the capabilities and skills of the Navy and Air Force leads to an armed force team that is better trained, equipped and ready to respond to crises across the globe.

The whole purpose of this training was integration,” Weide said. “With the Marines, Navy and Air Force, we are able to build that integrated team.”

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