When Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jerrod Hammes climbs into the cockpit of his MV-22 Osprey, he continues the naval aviation legacy started by his father, retired Lt. Col. Gerald Hammes, a Marine Corps aviator, government service civilian and fellow native of Paoli, Ind.
The senior Hammes, who left the Marine Corps in 2000, retired for the second time in May when he hung up his “wings” as a flight test coordinator with Naval Air System Command's V-22 program office.
Gerald Hammes spent more than 24 years in the Marines, flew the CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter in the fleet, and played a key role in the developmental and operational flight testing of the MV-22, a hybrid airplane-helicopter aircraft, now flown by his son.
“I knew I wanted to fly, and I chose the Marine Corps because it fit,” Gerald Hammes said. “Working with the infantry … and the troops … and flying all appealed to me.”
As Jerrod Hammes prepares to deploy for his first overseas assignment, two generations of naval aviators reflect on their journey in the pioneering aircraft.
In March 1990, Gerald Hammes was the second Marine to pilot the V-22 prototype, a tiltrotor aircraft which transitions between fixed-wing and rotor-wing configurations, essentially creating a hybrid helicopter and airplane. In December 1990, he was the first to land the V-22 aboard ship.
Jerrod Hammes has flown the MV-22B, the Marines' operational model of the Osprey, since graduating from the Naval Flight School in 2010.
Gerald Hammes said he believes his son was inspired to join the Marines during a trip to the Naval Academy at age 12.
“After we got done with the tour, [Jerrod] said, 'Dad, I'm not sure I want to go to the Naval Academy. I'm not sure I want to make that much of a commitment,'” Gerald Hammes said, chuckling as he recalled the conversation. “So, we had a little talk about commitment. About three years later, he comes up to me and says, 'Man, it would be really cool to graduate from the Naval Academy.'”
Not only did Jerrod Hammes graduate from the Naval Academy, he went on to earn his pilot's wings.
“With my father being a pilot … I was able to gain exposure to the military and aviation,” Jerrod Hammes said in an email from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego. “Without that, I may never have known that this career path even existed, much less how to get here. However, other than exposure, he wanted to let me make my own decision on my career.”
Gerald Hammes began the family's naval aviation legacy in 1976 when he joined the Marines after college, earned his wings in 1978 and completed the United States Naval Test Pilot School here at Pax River in 1988. After graduating TPS, he started working as a V-22 developmental test pilot, conducting evaluations on the first four prototype V-22 aircraft. In 1994, he joined Marine Helicopter Squadron ONE, or HMX-1, to lead the V-22 Multiservice Operational Test Team; and in 2004, began supporting the V-22 Program Office.
Gerald Hammes remained committed to the V-22 Osprey throughout the acquisition process and developmental and operational flight testing and supports future tiltrotor technology developments.
“The V-22 is now pushing 150,000 flight hours, and, according to Marine Corps headquarters, is the safest Marine rotorcraft over the last 10 years,” Gerald Hammes said. “As a flight tester, I'm proud to be a part of that; as a father, that gives me comfort. We often challenged each other to test the V-22 as if our children would be flying it, and they would, in the general sense; but in our case, the challenge came home. It is a beautiful airplane.”
Jerrod Hammes, who entered MV-22 flight training at Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, N.C., said the V-22 was his first choice of aircraft when he finished flight school.
“I ultimately decided to choose V-22s in order to be involved with a new airframe with amazing capabilities,” he said.
After Jerrod Hammes' first flight in the Osprey, his father recalled receiving a text from his son that read, simply: “I love my job. That was awesome.”