CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
Marines and sailors with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) handed over the responsibilities as the aviation combat element for Regional Command (Southwest) to 3rd MAW (Fwd) during a transfer of authority ceremony aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan Feb. 4.
This was the third deployment to Afghanistan for the Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., unit, and the casing of 2nd MAW (Fwd)’s colors signifies their Operation Enduring Freedom mission is now complete. They close out another chapter in Marine Corps history as the last East Coast unit to serve as the ACE for RC(SW).
The wings’s deployment to Afghanistan began during February 2013. Throughout their time here, the unit completed more than 35,000 manned flight hours and 31,000 unmanned flight hours, covering more than 44,000 square miles of the RC(SW) area of operations, said Lt. Col. Mark E. Van Skike, assistant chief of staff for operations, 2nd MAW (Fwd).
The wing has carried out and completed its missions with the support of a variety of aircraft from rotary-wing CH-53E Super Stallions, AH-1 Super Cobras and UH-1 Hueys to fixed-wing AV-8B Harriers, tilt-rotor MV-22 Ospreys and Cargo Resupply Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
The round-the-clock support the wing provided ranged from medical evacuations for partnered and coalition forces in the RC(SW) area of operations to rotary-wing close air support with immediate response capabilities, assault support, and assistance transporting personnel, gear and cargo.
“I would like to convey what a privilege and honor it has been to serve as part of RC(SW), serving side by side with our Afghan partners and getting to watch their progression over the year,” said Col. Scott Jensen, commanding officer, 2nd MAW (Fwd). “It’s been a privilege as an aviation unit to be able to contribute in so many different ways, and interact with so many commanders and ground units across the coalition and across the Afghan National Security Forces. There is no finer organization and no finer group of people that have supported themselves in difficult times. They never turned down a mission and were always there when someone needed them — I am very proud that.”
Colonel Jensen attributed the unit’s effectiveness to the hard work and dedication of all the Marines and sailors within the command. He said it doesn’t happen by chance, but by good organizational skills from the headquarters level on down. The men and women who represent 2nd MAW (Fwd) made sure the aviation support on the ground and in the air was assisting those who needed it at the right time and place to protect the Marines out there on the battlefield.
The TOA ceremony marks the start of 3rd MAW’s third deployment to Afghanistan. The unit, based out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., is scheduled to be here until the end of the year. They will be the last Marine Corps wing unit to aid RC(SW) with aviation support.
“We are trained, ready, motivated and proud to be your Marine Aircraft Wing,” said Col. Patrick A. Gramuglia, commanding officer, 3rd MAW (Fwd).
As they assume command, 3rd MAW (Fwd) plans to maintain readiness for all elements of RC(SW) and keep coalition units in the fight by sustaining force protection of Camp Bastion and Camp Leatherneck, and maintaining the partnership with the United Kingdom Task Force Joint Aviation Group. Together they have integrated their operations and missions to work as a team to provide the best aviation support as the ACE for RC(SW).
Third MAW (Fwd) will continue to uphold the standard for professional execution of all their missions, said Gramuglia. The morale amongst the staff, Marines and sailors is very high, and they have trained hard and are motivated to be here.