News: MCAS Iwakuni commanding officer bids farewell
Story by Lance Cpl. James Smith
IWAKUNI, Japan - On July 6, 1984, Col. James C. Stewart, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni commanding officer, a civilian at the time, raised his right hand and swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Stewart upheld that oath to present day, as he prepares to pass the colors at his change of command and retirement ceremony July 12, 2013, ending an illustrious 29-year career of dedicated service to the United States and the Marine Corps.
"What we will see is the passing from the 32nd to 33rd generation of Marine Corps colonel that has commanded this installation," said Stewart, who will be giving command to Col. Robert Boucher.
Stewart isn’t a stranger to Iwakuni, he spent five years stationed here; two as Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron commanding officer and the last three as station commanding officer.
In addition, Stewart said he spent a total of three years deployed to Iwakuni with other squadrons.
During his time in Iwakuni, his actions left a lasting impact by significantly improving the station.
"In May of 2010, just before I took command, we opened a new runway," said Stewart. "It was a 13-year project, and it saw the safety concerns and some of the noise burden on the local community alleviated and have seen quantitative proof every month and every year that it's been open."
In addition to the new airfield, some of Stewart's achievements here include the Local Implementation Agreements Signature Ceremony November 2012 and most recent being awarded the 2012 Marine Corps station safety award. However, the most memorable moment was making his dream come true.
"The opportunity to have escaped a small town in Idaho, not just to serve in defense of the republic, but to have the opportunity to fly as a primary career," said Stewart. "To have earned the title ‘Officer of Marines’ is phenomenal. To have had the opportunity to command not once, but twice, is far beyond an expectation that I ever would have made."
As Stewart reminisced on his past, he said with sincerity in his voice, that he will miss working alongside the people of the station. However, he said there is one thing he will miss the most.
"Because I have spent a majority of my commissioned service coming to Iwakuni, I will miss Western Japan," Stewart said passionately. "I have spent more time here than any other location in my Marine Corps career. It is home, and I talk of it in such terms that I will miss home...and it feels as if I'm leaving home once again."