Story by Cpl Gabrielle Quire on 09/30/2016Marine Aircraft Group 49, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing held a memorial ceremony Sept. 18, 2016 at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, Louisiana, to honor two fallen pilots from their unit.
Maj. Erik "Backstreet" Boyce and Maj. Jason "Frenchy" Grogan were killed July 6, 2016, when their helicopter crashed near Arlington, Texas, while working at their civilian jobs flying for Bell Helicopter.
Grogan and Boyce were both assigned to HMLA 773, Det, A at NAS Joint Reserve JRB New Orleans in the Select Marine Corps Reserve.
Grogan was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps December 12, 1997. After earning his wings and completed Fleet Replacement Squadron training with HMLAT-303, he was designated as an AH-1W Attack Helicopter Pilot. In 2001 he joined HMLA-169 Vipers out of Camp Pendleton, California. He was deployed twice to Iraq, once with the Vipers, and once with the H-1 Detachment to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 166, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. During the course of these combat deployments Grogan earned 16 Air Medals and three Air Medals with the Combat Distinguishing Device.
In 2007 he was assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, where he participated in extensive operational testing and evaluation of the AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters, as well as the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System.
Boyce was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps on May 24, 2002. After earning his wings and completed Fleet Replacement Squadron training with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, he was designated an AH-1W Attack Helicopter Pilot. In 2005 he joined HMLA-369 "Gunfighters" out of Camp Pendleton, California. Boyce deployed three times to Iraq with the Gunfighters, flying hundreds of close air support missions in support combat operations and Marines on the ground. Over the course of these three combat deployments Boyce amassed 15 Air Medals.
In 2010 he attended US Naval Test Pilot School where he graduated number one in his class, and was assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 31 at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California.
In 2010 Grogan left active duty and joined Bell Helicopter as an experimental test pilot and Boyce followed in 2013.
"Maj. Jason Grogan and Maj. Erik Boyce were two of the most qualified and experienced helicopter pilots in MAG-49, and the Marine Corps as a whole. Both pilots demonstrated their superior abilities over the course of multiple combat deployments," said Maj. Joseph C. Begely, executive officer of HMLA-773 Det. A, NAS JRB New Orleans. "Moreover, both of these men went on to complete Navy Test Pilot School, probably the most challenging training for Navy and Marine pilots. They continued to serve their country in the Marine Corps Reserve as AH-1W pilots with the Red Dogs of HMLA-773."
The Marine Corps air wing community not only lost two skilled pilots and brothers in arms, but the two Marines also left behind loving families.
Boyce is survived by his wife Sarah, and daughter Theresa. He is also survived by his parents David and Ritajane, his brothers Benjamin and Matthew, and sister Suzanne Edwards.
Grogan is survived by his wife Lynn, and children Justice, Katelyn, and Aaron. He is also survived by his parents Michael and El Wanda, his brother Todd, and his aunt Lana Grogan.
During the memorial a white cross draped in flight gear stood next to the photographs of the two Marines in front of the American and Marine Corps flags. One by one, loved ones and service members spoke on behalf of the fallen Marines, commemorating their time served in the Marine Corps as well as beloved family members.
"Maj. Grogan and Maj. Boyce were devoted husbands, fathers and Marines," said Begely. "Although we have felt the impact of the loss of each pilot's exceptional skill, proficiency and experience as aviators, what we will miss the most at the Red Dogs is Frenchy's and Backstreet's sense of humor, friendship, and mentorship."