News: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
HISTORY – In 1942, less than 40 Marines with only one aircraft formed the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. Within a year, the Corps’ newest MAW deployed a bomber squadron to support World War II.
Between 1943 and 1955, 3rd MAW moved around the country to air stations in Hawaii and Miami before finding a long-time home aboard Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif., in 1955.
3rd MAW supported combat operations in Korea, the Vietnam War and throughout Southeast Asia.
Following the end of operations in Vietnam, a number of squadrons deactivated or re-designated, forming the wing as it is known today.
In the 1990s, the wing joined I Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq and Kuwait for the Gulf War, flying more than 18,000 missions.
MCAS Miramar, Calif., became the wing’s current home in 1997. From Miramar, 3rd MAW began supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001.
In 2002, the largest deployment of wing personnel and equipment since the Vietnam War as 3rd MAW mobilized in Kuwait for the invasion of Iraq. During the initial invasion alone, 3rd MAW dropped more than six million pounds of ordnance.
AIR, LAND AND SEA – Today, the wing continues its mission of providing short-notice, combat-ready aviation support to world-wide commands.
3rd MAW assets are currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and around the globe with Marine Expeditionary Units.
This year alone, 3rd MAW has aided in the seizure of millions of dollars in narcotics and weapons across Afghanistan, crippling insurgent activity.
The wing pioneered new uses for its unmanned aerial vehicles, including the K-MAX helicopter, deployed its MV-22B Ospreys to provide humanitarian aid in Haiti and defended its ground during the September attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
Whether aboard an aircraft carrier at sea or a desolate forward operating base in the desert, 3rd MAW supports I Marine Expeditionary Force with offensive air support, anti-air warfare, assault support, aerial reconnaissance, electronic warfare and control of aircraft and missiles.
The wing’s multifaceted mission means they do more than fly planes. MAW assets keep ground troops safe with heavy-duty close air support, some of the most advanced electronic warfare weapons in the world and heavy lift capabilities that can move cargo and troops almost anywhere, any time.
EVERY MARINE A RIFLEMAN – Since its inception, 3rd MAW Marines and sailors have distinguished themselves on battlefields around the globe.
Wing Marines today continue the heroic traditions of their predecessors, from life-saving actions supporting troops-in-contact on the ground to defending their turf on the flight line of Camp Bastion.
In 2010, Staff Sgt. Bart Davis, a crew chief, and Maj. Tres Smith, a pilot, both then with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, earned Distinguished Flying Crosses for endangering their own lives to deliver much-needed ammunition and supplies to ground forces fighting in Helmand province, Afghanistan.
Despite heavy enemy fire, the crew successfully delivered the supplies. After being shot, Smith continued giving orders to guide the flight crew while Davis applied first aid to his wounded pilot.
“They flew in a high-threat environment,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, then the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). “[Davis and Smith] focused on what they had to do and took care of those Marines on the ground, despite a high volume of incoming fire.”
Last September, the flight line aboard Camp Bastion came under attack by insurgent forces. When Lt. Col. Chris Raible, the commanding officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211, heard the explosions, he didn’t hesitate.
Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, an electrical systems technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, rushed toward the sound of gunfire.
Upon arrival at the squadron, Raible, with the help of Atwell, took control of the situation and led his Marines – mostly technicians and aviators – into ground combat against the surprise attack.
Raible’s aggressive response to the attack is credited with preventing devastating losses on the flight line.
Raible and Atwell were both killed in the attack, leading their fellow Marines from the front.
Since 1942, 3rd MAW has distinguished itself on and off the battlefield, from forward operating bases in some of the most remote regions of the world, to ships at sea ready to launch at a moment’s notice. The wing will move into the future, supporting America’s premier “total force in readiness.”