Boeing Frontiers
July 2003
Volume 02, Issue 03
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Integrated Defense Systems

Love of the Harrier spurs senior tech rep to action


Dave McGrathWhen the U.S. Marine Corps put out a call late last year for technical representatives to support AV-8B Harrier IIs in the fight against terrorism, Dave McGrath was one of the first to sign up.

McGrath knew Harriers well. One of his last jobs in his 21-year career in the Marine Corps was working with AV-8Bs. When he retired from the Marines in 1978, it was only natural that he join McDonnell Douglas to continue his support of the Harrier fleet.

"I love the Harrier," said McGrath, who is a Boeing Integrated Defense Systems senior technical representative at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. "It's a valuable asset for the Marine Corps because it provides close air support for the troops."

When McGrath headed back to sea, he did so with Harriers from Marine Air Group 14 aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan. "I volunteered to fill one of the slots they requested," McGrath said. "As a retired gunnery sergeant, I believe in what the Marine Corps does. I wouldn't have missed this for the world."

McGrath left with the Marines Jan. 12 and served aboard ship until April 10. It wasn't the first time McGrath had supported Marine aircraft, nor was it the first time he had been in a combat zone.

As a Marine, McGrath spent 21 years as an aircraft electrician and served three tours in Vietnam. "I served in helicopter squadrons as an electrician [and] was qualified to be a crew chief and gunner," he said. "But like the Marines out here, we did just about everything they needed us to do."

For McGrath, that encompassed a variety of tasks. Officially, his job on the ship was to act as a liaison between Boeing IDS and the Marine Corps. In reality, he did much more as he shared his wealth of knowledge about the aircraft with the Navy maintainers.

"If he wasn't here, we'd be making phone calls back to Boeing every day," said Chief Warrant Officer Charles Fisher, the maintenance control officer of Marine Attack Squadron 542. "He provides training, hands-on maintenance and knowledge of the Harrier's environmental system."

Fisher applauded McGrath for his willingness to pass on his knowledge and share his experience. This assignment put that experience to the test, as the 24 Harriers aboard the Bataan flew 10 hours a day, and as Marine and Boeing maintainers worked a schedule of 12 hours on, 12 hours off for the duration of the deployment.

In the month of March alone, the two squadrons aboard, VMA-223 and VMA-542, flew 641 sorties and more than 958 hours. McGrath and four other Boeing technical representatives supported the Marines by coaching the Marine maintainers and digging in to help wherever needed.

"My job entails supporting the Marines in any way I can to keep their airplanes in full mission status," McGrath said. "If I'm called upon, I'll go down there and assist them with manual repairs, but these [Marine] maintainers will keep these birds flying."

It's a job he loves, McGrath admitted. "In 1985, I reported to Cherry Point as a tech rep and have worked from there mostly since then," he said. "I don't know if it was my original intention to work with Harriers again, but it's in my blood."


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