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AL ASAD, Iraq ? Colonel Thomas M. Murray, outgoing Marine Aircraft Group 26 commanding officer, renders the appropriate salute to Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr., 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) commanding general, during the MAG-26 change of command ceremony here Aug. 7. Murray relinquished command of the group to Col. David J. Mollahan and is slated to be the chief of staff of 2nd MAW (Fwd). Milstead was the ceremony?s reviewing officer.

Photo by SGT. JUAN VARA

MAG-26 changes hands in Iraq: Murray moves on, Mollahan takes helm

7 Aug 2005 | Sgt. Juan Vara

In a ceremony held here Aug. 7, Col. Thomas M. Murray relinquished command of Marine Aircraft Group 26 to Col. David J. Mollahan.Murray, from St. Paul, Minn., assumed command of the group in October 2003. “It has been my privilege for the last two years to be the custodian of this institution,” he said. “I’ll remember it for the rest of my life and I’m eternally grateful for that opportunity.”Mollahan, from Ontario, Ore., joins the group after serving as the chief of staff of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, N.C.“I’m extremely honored and proud to be a part of this organization and to be part of the great legacy that is MAG-26,” he said. “[Marine Aircraft Group-26] has been humming along as a well oiled machine for a long time and I will make sure it stays that way.”During the ceremony Murray was presented with the Legion of Merit for exceptional meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service as the commanding officer of MAG-26.Throughout Murray’s tenure as commanding officer the group conducted pre-deployment preparations that included three pre-deployment site surveys, three command post exercises, a mission rehearsal exercise, nine revised combined arms exercises at the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and two Desert Talon exercises at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma, Ariz.The group also maintained a close relationship with MAG-16 units that were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the dividends of that relationship were seen March 1 when MAG-26 assumed MAG-16’s mission here in a seamless transfer of authority. Under Murray’s command MAG-26 became the largest Marine aircraft group in the Corps with more than 12 squadrons, over 3,100 Marines and sailors and more than 200 aircraft.“This isn’t easy to give up,” said Murray. “It becomes family after a while. What makes it a lot easier is that I’m turning it over to Colonel Mollahan.”Among the special guests were Brig. Gen. Charles S. Patton, deputy commanding general of the forward deployed II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr., 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) commanding general.An experienced CH-46E pilot, Murray, call sign “Razor,” is slated to be the chief of staff of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).- For more information about the Marines reported on in this story, please contact Sgt. Juan Vara by e-mail at varaj@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil -
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