Updated On: 5/24/2013 3:38:54 PM
MCAS CHERRY POINT HISTORY
It is said that the name “Cherry Point” comes from a post office established in the area for the Blades Lumber people some years ago. The post office was closed in 1935. The original “Point” was on the south side of the Neuse River east of Hancock Creek, and the word “Cherry” came from cherry trees that at one time grew on the point.
Congress authorized Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point on July 9, 1941, with an initial appropriation of $14,990,000 for construction and clearing of an 8,000-acre tract of swamps, farms and timberland.
Actual clearing of the site began on Aug. 6, 1941, with extensive drainage and malaria control work. Construction began in November, just 17 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Cherry Point’s first commanding officer, Lt. Col. Thomas J. Cushman, landed the first plane, a J2F Grumman amphibious biplane, at the air station on March 18, 1942. The air station was commissioned on May 20, 1942, as Cunningham Field, in honor of the Marine Corps first aviator, Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham. In August 1942, one year after land clearing began, the first Marines arrived.
Cherry Point is one of the world’s largest Marine Corps air stations and one of the best all-weather jet bases in the world. The size of the air station has increased from the original 8,000 acres to more than 13,000 acres at the primary complex, with nearly 16,000 additional acres in associated support locations. Cherry Point has one of the most active all-service bombing ranges on the East Coast.
Cherry Point is home to Marine Transport Squadron 1. The squadron’s aircraft provide military transportation, as well as search and rescue. The SAR aircraft also serve the local community with their medical evacuation and search and rescue capabilities.
Today, this once-austere patch of land in rural eastern North Carolina is home to nearly 15,000 Marines, sailors and civilians, with an annual economic impact on the surrounding region of more than $2 billion. Personnel and organizations here donate time and money through the Combined Federal Campaign, Navy-Marine Corps Relief, community donations collected through the Memorial Chapel’s religious offering fund, and through an Adopt-A-School program that provides direct support to 15 local schools. It remains the home of one of the most powerful combat aviation forces in the world.
2d MARINE AIRCRAFT WING HISTORY
The Marines and Sailors of 2d Marine Aircraft Wing may call the Eastern Carolinas home, but their powerful presence can be felt almost anywhere on the globe. From dawn to dawn, hemisphere to hemisphere, forward deployments means the sun to always shine on the 2d MAW.
With a legacy that began with 2d MAW’s commissioning in July 1941, commitment and camaraderie have always been evident, especially in times of crisis.
The 2d MAW was originally headquartered in San Diego. It consisted of six squadrons — two in San Diego and four in Hawaii.
Although the Hawaii-based squadrons sustained extensive damage during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, 2d MAW retained its fighting spirit and subsequently contributed to 83 South Pacific combat operations. Marines and aircraft from 2d MAW participated in major battles or campaigns at Wake Island, Okinawa, Midway, Saipan, Guadalcanal, Tinian and Guam.
In April 1946, 2d MAW relocated to its present home at MCAS Cherry Point. During the Vietnam War, 2d MAW supplied combat-ready units and personnel to operations in the Asian Theater.
In the 1980s, 2d MAW units were active participants in exercises and operations around the globe, including those in Lebanon, Cuba, Grenada, Panama and the Dominican Republic.
The decade of the ’90s began with Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union followed in brief succession. The millennium closed with 2d MAW squadrons prosecuting and supporting NATO air strikes in Kosovo and Serbia during Operation Allied Force, and flying support during Operation Northern Watch from Incirlik, Turkey.
The beginning of the 21st century brought continued active participation in exercises and operations around the United States and around the world. From 2000 to 2002: Prowler squadrons deployed in support of Operation Southern Watch, Operation Northern Watch and Unit Deployment Program rotations to Japan; Harrier and helicopter squadrons deployed in support of the 22nd, 24th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units; Hornet squadrons deployed aboard the USS Harry S. Truman with Carrier Wing 3; and Marine Wing Support Group 27 and Marine Air Control Group 28 deployed personnel in support of all exercises and operations involving 2d MAW flying squadrons.
In early 2001, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 and Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 3 participated in a joint combined strike against Iraq. This marked the first Marine Corps combat use of the Joint Standoff Weapon. In 2002, 2d MAW units deployed to Spain to participate in NATO-sponsored Exercise Dynamic Mix. Additionally, Marine Attack Squadron 542 and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 flew combat missions over Afghanistan and conducted humanitarian missions in Djibouti. The Marines of VMA-542 were among the first to employ the LITENING 2 targeting pod in combat.
In 2003, the 2d MAW deployed more than 7,700 Marines and Sailors in support of the Global War on Terrorism, Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. More than 200 tactical combat aircraft flew in support of Global War on Terrorism operations. They supported combat and contingency operations around the globe, with greater than 70 percent command and control, support group, and aircraft deployed simultaneously. Additionally, the wing continued to support UDPs, and even extended one squadron for a 12-month deployment while providing a Harrier detachment to cover a 3D MAW UDP rotation.
Since then, 2d MAW has continuously provided support to forward areas of operation in the Middle East with the deployment of many thousands of Marines and Sailors and hundreds of tactical combat aircraft. A milestone was reached in 2007 when 2d MAW sent the first operational MV-22 Osprey squadron forward. The Osprey is the Corps’ replacement for the venerable CH-46 helicopter, with range and speed advantages that have shrunk the battle theater and provide better protection for ground troops being transported to the battlefield.
Today, 2d MAW continues to provide the Fleet Marine Force with offensive air support, anti-air warfare, assault support, aerial reconnaissance, active and passive electronic countermeasures, and control of aircraft and missiles. Additionally, 2d MAW may participate as an integral component of naval aviation in the execution of other Navy functions as the fleet commander may direct. 2d MAW also may provide humanitarian relief as needed in various disaster-stricken reaches of the world.
VMR-1 provides search and rescue support to MCAS Cherry Point-based aircraft as well as short- and medium-range rapid response/high speed multipurpose light transport of key personnel and critical logistics. The squadron also provides wartime movement of high priority passengers and cargo with time, place or mission-sensitive requirements flown in support of DoD-directed wartime operations and other critical Combatant Commander required worldwide wartime commitment.
VMR-1 remains a unique Marine Corps asset that operates two C-9B Skytrains, two UC-35D Cessna Encores, and three HH-46E Sea Knight helicopters. The squadron operates its C-9B and UC-35 aircraft in a myriad of missions dealing with cargo and troop movement, in addition to the transportation of military and civilian dignitaries. Traditionally referred to as “Pedro,” the HH-46E is primarily used for search and rescue missions in support of military, Coast Guard and civilian authorities when extended searches in eastern North Carolina are required.