MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. -- Thousands of Marines from eastern North Carolina have recently been deploying in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 04-06. Some of these warfighters comprise the Aviation Combat Element, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), commanded by who is slated to be one of the newest brigadier generals in the Corps.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld announced Feb. 1 that President George W. Bush nominated Col. Robert E. Milstead Jr. for promotion.
“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Milstead, a Wilmington, N.C., resident. “But the reason I decided to pull my retirement papers and do this, before I found out I was going to be promoted, is because of the young Marines. I love them and I want to be around them.”
Before taking command of 2nd MAW (Fwd), Milstead served briefly as the chief of staff of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Anti-Terrorism).
One of the most notable accomplishments in his career is his tour as commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group-29. The MAG-29 “War Eagles” left eastern North Carolina on Jan. 14, 2003 and returned from fighting the war in Iraq on June 28. Every Marine and Sailor who deployed came back alive and none of the aircraft taken abroad were lost.
“I think one of the greatest things the Marine Corps has is the fact that we mentor each other,” he said. “The experienced and the inexperienced Marines naturally gravitate to each other. The young ones are running around with bayonets in their teeth, but it’s good to have the more seasoned salts to guide them in the right direction.”
An experienced AH-1W Super Cobra pilot, Milstead, call sign “Boomer,” deployed to Turkey and northern Iraq in 1991 for Operation Provide Comfort and participated in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992.