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Feature Story

An MV-22 Osprey takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Corbin Shea

An MV-22 Osprey takes off from the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). Kearsarge is conducting crew certifications in preparation for future amphibious operations as seen in this file photo.

Commanding Marine Corps General cites MV-22, innovation, capabilities

Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Austell Cunningham (March 8, 1881 - May 27, 1939)

History Division, United States Marine Corps

Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Austell Cunningham (March 8, 1881 - May 27, 1939), 1st Marine Corps aviator and 1st Director of Marine Corps Aviation.

Speaking to an audience in St. Louis Sept. 1, the Commanding General of the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory and Vice Chief of the Office of Naval Research, Brigadier General Mark R. Wise said the future of the modern day Marine Corps lies in increased survivability through innovation.

Wise was keynote speaker for the 13th annual Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation (MCLEF) benefit gala held at the Missouri Athletic Club. MCLEF provides college scholarships for the children of fallen U.S. Marines and federal law enforcement personnel who have lost their lives while on active duty. The foundation has raised more than $54 million nationally since its inception in 1995.

“As a Marine who has seen first-hand the good MCLEF has done for the children of men and women protecting our freedoms, I thank you for being here tonight,” said Wise.

The head of the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, Wise recounted innovations in aviation that are being celebrated this year as part of the Centennial of Marine Aviation.

A U.S. Marine Corps pilot himself with more than 3,500 hours in the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and F-15 Eagle, Wise shared highlights of the career of Lt. Col. Alfred Austell Cunningham, the first Marine aviator, considered by many as “the father of Marine Corps aviation.”

"Here is a man so committed to innovation and what capability aviation could bring to the future potential of Marine Corps Aviation. His vision inspires today's pilots wearing the gold wings of Marine Corps aviators."

“Here is a man so committed to innovation and what capability aviation could bring to the future potential of Marine Corps Aviation,” said Wise. “His vision inspires today’s pilots wearing the gold wings of Marine Corps aviators.”

Cunningham took his solo flight August 20, 1912 with just two hours and 40 minutes of instruction. He would later receive the U.S. Navy Cross for his part in 43 raids with British and French aviators against the enemy in World War I. The raids included participation in dropping 52,000 pounds of bombs as well as air dropping 2,600 pounds of food to hungry troops- illustrating the versatility of the new technology of powered flight.

Modern Day Innovation

For more on the Osprey and its mission of success watch this video that was first published June 21, 2011

Brig. Gen. Wise also had high praise for the Boeing MV-22 Osprey, seeing its first combat in Iraq by the U.S. Marines in 2007. The dual tilt rotor Osprey has been instrumental in hundreds of missions with its extended range and speed from an Amphibious Ready Group.
“It was two Ospreys that took off and rescued a downed F-15 pilot in Libya last year - returning him safely to the carrier deck of the USS Kearsarge in 90 minutes,” Wise stated. “There isn’t another helicopter with the range and speed of the Osprey that could have done that. That’s innovation.”

“I was really proud to hear Brigadier General Wise speak so highly of the MV-22 and the lifesaving missions it’s carrying out,” said Mike Ryan, a member of the audience and a retired U.S. Marine Corps staff sergeant now with Boeing Defense, Space & Security business development.

Before finishing his remarks, Wise told the audience about a brand-new capability his team at the warfighting laboratory is testing at Fort Pickett U.S. Army National Guard Maneuver Training Center, Virginia -- An unmanned ground vehicle that can carry wounded Marines to safety without putting others in harm’s way.

“This is just the kind of innovative spirit that inspired Lt. Col. Cunningham so many years ago,” said the general. “It’s all about increased capability in the future.”

Also attending the MCLEF event were Medal of Honor recipient U.S. Army 1st Lieutenant (Ret.) Brian Thacker and National Football League Hall of Famer Jackie Smith who received this year’s Semper Fidelis Award for his many hours of charity work.