MCAS MIRAMAR, CA — Fresh stubble sprouts on the face of Marine Major Pat “Brownout” Greyson. He rubs his oddly rough cheeks awaiting the results of a Congressional hearing on type confusion in the military.
“You’re supposed to shave, even when on leave. But l don’t feel like shaving today.”
Greyson has been battling depression since completing his transition from flying helicopters to the Marine Corps’ newest transformer-like hybrid: the MV-22 Osprey. Neither a traditional fixed-wing “type” nor a rotary-wing type, the Osprey has a new type of its own: tiltrotor.
Switching from rotary-wing to tiltrotor is turning out to be more than a casual affair. A recent ALMAR referenced a study published by the Naval Group of Aviation Surgeons for Expeditionary Readiness (NAVALGASERS) and identified transitioning Osprey pilots as being at an increased risk for depression, approach turn stalls, and suicide.
“I’m really glad to be here,” says Greyson, “but I almost didn’t make it. I get hot flashes when I’m on Orbitz. It’s so easy to book a flight to D.C., but I’m not sure that’s who I am. Helicopter charters are expensive. I ended up taking the train.”
Maj Greyson has been suffering from type confusion since his CH-46 squadron transitioned to the MV-22 last year. He is hopeful that Congress will fund special benefits packages for those with his condition.
“Changing my type has changed my life–mostly for the better, but it’s still a struggle. I’ve lost some friends. My wife’s family has been very supportive. My parents still don’t know.”
More and more Osprey pilots are coming forward with difficulties accompanying the transition to the Marine Corps’ newest next-generation medium lift platform. After today, Osprey pilots might be one step closer to getting the support they need.
Capt Sam Browning, a training officer with VMM-134, explains his first flight after transitioning.
“At first you feel free. You take off like a helicopter, but then the nacelles program forward and you accelerate forward really fast, like 100 knots! But then you land like a helicopter again, and you’re like, ‘Who am I? Who is this guy?'”
Osprey pilots have received mixed responses from fellow aviators. Top Gun graduate and ISIS F/A-18 exchange pilot Capt Ahmda “Big-E” Bahm has sympathy for the struggling aviators in the tiltrotor community.
“Everyone know [sic] that how you fly is more than behavior; it’s who you are,” Bahm says. “I was born to [be a] fighter pilot. It’s not something you can change. This must be [a] struggle.”
Bahm transitioned to the F/A-18 after completing 2.2 hours of basic aviation training in his organization’s newly acquired MiG-21s. The experimental ISIS aviation exchange program is part of Washington’s new strategy for combating insider attacks.
Others are not as understanding. A Marine captain, who chose to remain anonymous, responded through a bulging lip, “They chose to be tiltrotor guys. There’s going to be consequences when you choose that lifestyle. We can train them to be traditional pilots again, but they have to want it. Now it’s ‘cool’ to be tiltrotor. I don’t get it.”
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Photo Credit: Gunnery Sgt. Scott Dunn / PD
Photo Credit: USMC / PD
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