AL ASAD, Iraq -- After months of training and preparation, Marine Aircraft Group 29, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), has taken command of the aviation combat element in what Col. Christopher Owens, the MAG-29 commanding officer, believes to be a critical year for Iraq.
Owens took command from Col. John C. Kennedy, the Marine Aircraft Group 16 commanding officer, in a Transfer of Authority ceremony here, Feb. 3.
“It was a great sense of satisfaction (taking command), we had great work-ups and exercises to prepare us,” said Owens, the Deschutes, Oregon, native. “We also had a couple of weeks of good turnover with MAG-16. When Feb. 3 came around we were ready to go. It was our chance to put together what we learned and exercised.”
The mission of the MAG is to support II Marine Expeditionary Force objectives by flying assault support requests and joint strike requests that are prioritized by the MEF.
Although this is the first time that MAG-29 has taken command of the aviation element, they are no stranger to Iraq.
“In 2003 MAG-29 was the aviation combat element for Task Force Tarawa and it is appropriate that we are here again,” said Owens.
The TOA ceremony, which consisted of uncasing the MAG-29 colors and attaching the battle streamers, marked the day Owens assumed command of the largest aircraft group in the Marine Corps, said Sgt. Maj. George Shine, the MAG-29 sergeant major, and native of Charleston, S.C.
The MAG has operational control of all the 2nd MAW(fwd) flying squadrons, which consist of CH-46E Sea Knights, CH-53E Super Stallions, CH-53D Sea Stallions, AH-1W Super Cobras, UH-1N Hueys, AV-8B Harriers, FA-18 Hornets and KC-130J Hercules’.
Although, Owens will be in command of squadrons that are already in country, he feels confident in their abilities.
“The squadrons that have been here are experienced combat tested crews and are doing things extremely well, and our major focus is to ensure that they have the guidance and resources for continued success,” said Owens.
Later this year, the squadrons in country will go home and make way for other squadrons to do their part in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“We got to work with the (incoming) squadrons at Desert Talon, and based on their performance, I’m confident in their ability to carry out the mission,” said Owens. “I like what I see, they are a strong bunch of professionals well positioned to snap in and carry on the success, adapt to the changing environment and provide the best air support that the (Marine Air Ground Task Force) has ever seen.”