Joe is a native of Detroit, Michigan. After graduating from Catholic Central High School, he was nominated to attend the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, where he majored in engineering. As a Midshipman, he played varsity baseball and was proud to have graduated in the top 90% of the Class of 1968. He was commissioned a second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
His first assignment as a Marine officer was attending The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, where all Marine officers learn the basic infantry tactics, prior to attending flight school. Every Marine Officer is an infantry officer before becoming an aviator. Joe was selected to attend Undergraduate Pilot Training with the United States Air Force at Craig Air Force Base, Selma, Alabama. Upon receiving Air Force Silver Wings, he reported for duty to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, earning his U.S. Navy Wings of Gold and becoming combat qualified in the F-4 Phantom. He remains one of the very few pilots to be awarded both US Air Force and US Navy pilot wings. He then deployed to the Republic of Vietnam where he flew as pilot in command for 219 combat missions in the F-4 Phantom.
Upon his return from overseas, he was assigned Marine Attack Squadron 231, known as “VMA-231” at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. VMA-231, the World Famous “Ace of Spades” Squadron, is renowned as the “Oldest Squadron in the Marine Corps.” It can trace its flying roots back to the Northern Bombing Group, a group of WWI Marine Corps aviators combined to form a fighting squadron in 1929 to combat Nicaraguan insurgents. For that campaign, the squadron adopted the Ace of Spades as their emblem, and that emblem has been retained ever since. VMA-231 was at one time decommissioned, but reconstituted to fly the brand-new, imported version of the Harrier, the AV-8A. Joe started his transition to the Harrier when there were NO two-seat trainer aircraft. His senior flight instructor had a total of 6 flight hours in the Harrier. He read the book, which was written in “Brit,” and climbed in the cockpit for his first flight.
While stationed at Cherry Point, he carrier-qualified in the AV-8A “Harrier” aboard the USS Iwo Jima, LPH-2. He was later selected to attend the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School at NAS Patuxent River with over 1,500 total flight hours, including combat time in the F-4.
After graduation and as a newly-designated Test Pilot, Joe remained at Patuxent River and participated in the Shipboard certification of the AV-8A aboard the LHA. He also participated in the “Ski Jump” takeoff device evaluation at the 1978 Farnborough International Airshow. He then flew the Navy Preliminary evaluation of the YAV-8B Prototype aircraft. This prototype was a highly-modified Harrier with a much larger wing, a double row of intake doors, and large, automated flaps. These remain many of the physical characteristics of the airplane flown today by the U.S. Marine Corps as the AV-8B “Harrier II.”
Upon return to the fleet, Joe commanded Marine Attack Squadron 331, Marine Air Group 13 (the 1st Night Attack Harrier Air Group) and the 1st Marine Air Wing in Japan.
Joe’s experience with Harriers is legend: He flew his first Harrier in September 1973, flew his last Marine Harrier in August 2000 and FINALLY accumulated 2500 Harrier hours in 2009 flying the civilian Sea Harrier. He has flown nine, different models of the Harrier over a span of 36 years. Most of the active-duty pilots flying the Harrier in the Marine Corps were not even BORN when Joe had his first Harrier flight.
Joe reports his most exciting Harrier moment was losing his canopy after takeoff from Nashville, Tennessee in 1995. He recovered safely but reported a somewhat elevated noise level in the cockpit. The “convertible option” was never fully adopted by the Marines.
Joe has flight time in approximately 60 different type, model and series of military and civilian aircraft in addition to the “Harrier.” These include the A-3, A-4, A-6, A-7, A-37, T-38, F-4, F-5, F-15, and F-18.
In addition to his B.S. degree from the Naval Academy, Joe earned a M.S. degree from the University of Southern California. His formal military education includes Air Force Flight School, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and the National War College. He is also a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots.
Joe retired from the Marine Corps as a Major General in 2001. He served as the Associate Director for the National Air and Space Museum, Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center. He is currently on the Boards of Directors for several corporations.
Joe is active flying both the Sea Harrier and the L-39. He has aerobatic ratings in both aircraft.