Mark Forest spent two days with the 2nd MAW at MCAS Cherry Point and New River to get up close with the squadrons at work, and bring this report for AeroResource.

North Carolina USA is the headquarters and home to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW), based at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point. 2nd MAW is the primary Marine Corps aviation unit on the East Coast, and as such provides the main aviation element of II Marine Expeditionary Force. Through II MEF, the 2nd MAW provides support to the forces of European, Central and Southern Commands. Three Marine Corps Air Stations provide a range of aircraft, which support the 2nd MAW; these are MCAS Cherry Point, MCAS New River, both in North Carolina and MCAS Beaufort, South Carolina.

Five Marine Aircraft Groups (MAG-14, MAG-26, MAG-29, MAG-31, MAG-40) a Marine Wing Support Group (MWSG-27) and Marine Air Control Group (MACG-28) form the tenant command units under the control of the 2nd MAW headquarters. Each Marine Group is comprised of several flying squadrons, with over 400 aircraft available to the 2nd MAW, from a total complement of 33 units. These three Air Stations are always on standby 24/7, ready to deploy to any location around the world.

MCAS Cherry Point

MAG-14, MAG-28, MWSG-27 and MACG-28
Ground attack aircraft: AV-8B Harrier II (VMA-223, VMA-231, VMA-542)
Electronic counter measures aircraft: EA-6B Prowler (VMAQ-1 to VMAQ-4)
Transport aircraft and refuelling: KC-130J (VMGR-252), C-9B, and UC-35D
Training aircraft: TAV-8B Harrier II (VMAT-203)

MCAS New River

MAG-26, MAG-29
Ground attack helicopters: AH-1W Super Cobra (HMLA-167, HMLA-269, HMLA 467)
Transport helicopter: CH-53E Sea Stallion (HMH-366, HMH-461, HMH-464, HMHT-302))and UH-1N Twin Huey (HMLA-269, HMLA-467)
Tilt rotor aircraft: MV-22B Osprey (VMM-162, VMM-261, VMM-263, VMM-264, VMM-266, VMM-365, VMMT-204) [replacing the CH-46E Sea Knight since 2007] Base transport flight: UC-12F Huron

MCAS Beaufort

Fighter aircraft: F/A-18 A+, C and D variants (VMFA-115, 122, 251, 312, VMFA(AW)-224, 553, VMFAT-501)


Taken from the words of the 2nd MAW, their mission is:

“The mission of the MAW is to conduct air operations in support of the Marine Forces to include Offensive Air Support, Anti-Air Warfare, Assault Support, Aerial Reconnaissance, Electronic Warfare, and Control of Aircraft and Missiles. As a collateral function, the MAW may participate as an integral component of naval aviation in the execution of such other Navy functions as the Fleet Commander may direct.”

“As well as the control of aircraft and missiles, the 2ndMAW also utilises a small compliment of UAVs, the RQ-7 Shadow and the Scan Eagle, used in the airborne reconnaissance role. The 2nd MAW are also required to conduct tactical air operations as the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF), and to provide essential aviation logistics and conduct ground support operations to sustain aviation operations.”

Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF)

MAGTF, formalised by Marine Corps Order 3120.3 of December 1962, refers to the unique four-part structure that organizes Marine Corps operating forces. This framework brings together Aviation, Ground and Logistics Combat elements under one Command element. The result is a flexible, combined-arms unit with the capabilities to conduct the Marine Corps full range of operations.
MCO 3120.3 -A Marine air-ground task force with separate air ground headquarters is normally formed for combat operations and training exercises in which substantial combat forces of both Marine aviation and Marine ground units are included in the task organization of participating Marine forces.

The size of a MAGTF can be tailored to meet the needs of a mission. The smallest MAGTF to deploy is a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), a rapid response force of 2,200 Marines. On many occasions the MAGTF will work alongside units from the Army, Navy and NATO forces.


The Command Element coordinates the subordinate elements of the MAGTF in the planning and execution of the mission. This headquarters command will have all assets of the task force, both ground and air, under its control.


Known as the backbone of the Corps, the Ground Combat Element conducts land-based and amphibious operations, including offensive, defensive, reconnaissance and security operations. They are often the first to close with and confront an enemy. They will normally comprise of infantry, mobile armour (tanks or armoured vehicles) and Artillery, while other more specialised units may be included such as forward air controllers, Reconnaissance Battalions and snipers.


The Aviation Combat Element (ACE) conducts operations such as offensive air support, air defence, aerial reconnaissance and electronic warfare. They support ground forces and maintain air superiority. The ACE will always include fixed wing, tilt rotor and helicopters with the personnel on the ground to support them.


The Logistics Combat Element provides supplies, services and communication that keep the MAGTF ready for any mission. Specialised groups coordinate efforts essential to the day-to-day running of this multi facetted combat force..

Forward deployed

During early 2011 the 2nd MAW was called into action for a 12-month deployment fighting the War on Terror in Afghanistan and so relieving the Marines of the 3rd MAW who returned home to the West coast of the US. Some 11 squadrons have been forward deployed from all 3 bases with the primary mission to command and control all Marine Corps aviation assets and conduct combat aviation operations.

Whatever the situation the USMC will always be called upon to deploy major combat forces to whatever part of the world they are needed. The Corps use mottos of “Always Faithful” and “The Few The Proud” – to a Marine this is more than a motto, it is a way of life. Latin for “Always Faithful”, Semper Fidelis became the Marine Corps motto in 1883. It guides Marines to remain faithful to the mission at hand, to each other, to the Corps and to country, no matter what.

AeroResource would to like to thank Sgt Roman Yurek and Lt Dalton for supporting this article and providing the resources to make these visits possible. Special thanks must also go to John Astley and Ian French for planning, co-ordinating and arranging the squadron visits on base.