Drone Pilot Named Marine Aviator of the Year

Gentry said he chose drones after graduation 10 years ago because they were the ‘most deployed’ units.

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Shane Gentry, an MQ-9A MUX/MALE pilot with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing poses for a photo at MAG-24 headquarters, Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, March 25, 2024.[Courtesy: U.S. Marine Corps]

The U.S. Marine Corps’ top pilot for 2024 never leaves the ground.

For the first time, a drone pilot, Major Shane Gentry, has been named the Corps’ Marine Aviator of the Year. Gentry was also named recipient of the Alfred A. Cunningham Award by the Marine Corps Aviation Association.

Gentry is a member of the Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 and has flown the RQ-21, RQ-7 B, and MQ-9A.

“It’s a great honor. It’s humbling—absolutely pioneering for the Marine Corps unmanned community,” Gentry told USNI News.

Gentry said he chose drones after graduation 10 years ago because they were the “most deployed” units. He said since he began, drones have become increasingly important to operations of all kinds.

“We’re not coming to take manned aviation jobs,” he said. “If anything, we’re enhancing lethality of the aviation enterprise. We’re enhancing survivability of the manned aircraft. We’re enhancing their roles and duties in aviation. So we are an enhancing aspect of Marine Corps aviation.”

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on AVweb.

Russ Niles
Russ NilesContributor
Russ Niles has been a journalist for 40 years, a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb in 2003. When he’s not writing about airplanes he and his wife Marni run a small winery in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.

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