YUMA, Ariz. - A two star flag hung high above the parade field of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., on December 2nd and 3rd, signifying the arrival of a very important person aboard station.
More specifically, this flag represented the two-day visit of Maj. Gen. Juan G. Ayala, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations Command.
Accompanied by MCAS Yuma’s Commanding Officer Col. Robert C. Kuckuk and Sgt. Maj. Colen Laarman, Ayala toured the station while engaging with Marines on all levels of the totem pole in an effort to respond to the installation’s needs and gain a better understanding of its specific mission.
Kuckuk, welcomed the CG and led a tour in a manner which highlighted strong aspects of MCAS Yuma to Ayala.
“We really wanted to get across two main points … one being the relationship that we have with both the city and county of Yuma,” said Kuckuk. “We wanted to highlight that with the general because it’s very good, and it’s only getting better. The other thing we wanted to get across was the improvements to the base. Major Gen. Ayala has been around for some time now, so he’s familiar with Yuma, but he hasn’t been around here in about ten years. If you haven’t been around Yuma in the last five years, then your memory is of an old base that doesn’t have the changes on it that we enjoy today.”
MCAS Yuma has seen perennial changes over the course of the years with the addition of brand new squadrons and facilities, along with its introduction of the F-35 aircraft. Ayala’s exposure to these resources drew positive feedback.
“I walked around the new F-35 hangar and comm. (communications) building today, and I was talking to the commander about all the projects that are taking place in order to support our operational commanders,” said Ayala. “I saw a lot of things I liked. There’s a lot of hard work being done by the Marines here … it’s been a great trip.”
What amazed Kuckuk most about Ayala during the visit was the major general’s ability to engage with Marines and genuinely get to know them.
“Major Gen. Ayala got off the airplane and walked up to Sgt. Maj. Laarman and said, ‘Sgt. Laarman, what’re you doing here?’,” said Kuckuk. “Almost 15 years ago, ‘Sergeant’ Laarman was in Lt. Col. Ayala’s squadron back in Cherry Point NC. He remembered him and remembered special details about him. Not many people can do that; it takes a really observant person to remember people like that.”
Corporal Timothy Hammond, the administrative specialist for station headquarters, served as the driver responsible for transporting Ayala around MCAS Yuma.
During Ayala’s short stint at the station, he got to know Hammond on a personal level and made an effort to learn about MCAS Yuma through the eyes of the Marines who inhabit it.
“I was a little nervous at first to meet him because I had never met a general before, but he was actually a really nice guy,” said Hammond. “He asked me a lot of questions about the base and what I do here in Yuma, and when I told him I like mixed martial arts, he was really into that. He always asked people their names and where they’re from. He’s very genuine when you talk to him.”
Although Ayala left MCAS Yuma on December 3rd in order to attend to various matters around the Marine Corps in his mission to provide complete oversight to the institution, he left his mark on the station and its personnel, and vice versa.
“My favorite part is always meeting the people that work on the installation … meeting the Marines and the civilian personnel and seeing that even though Yuma might not be one of the bigger installations, there’s a lot of hard and important work that is going on around here,” said Ayala.