Commentary

July 19, 2012

5 Questions: Col. Michael Gough

MAG-13 Commanding Officer

1. What is the mission of MAG-13 and how does it support the MAGTF?

MAG-13’s mission is to provide fixed-wing tactical aviation support to Marine Air Ground Task Force operations form a variety of main bases, forward operating bases, and aircraft carriers. In short, our mission is to train, deploy, and win.
 
2. AV-8B Harriers from MAG-13 have deployed continuously over the last decade in support of combat and contingency operations and exercises.  Can you expand on a few highlights during your tenure and how these deployments have impacted our nation’s defense?

A large number of the Marines and Sailors from MAG-13 are deployed at any given time — whether deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, or to Japan, or to the amphibious carriers of Marine Expeditionary Units.  During the last 14 months of my time here as Commanding Officer, all of the 6 squadrons of the MAG have been deployed in one shape or another, and all have made a difference in our national security. I am very proud of them.
 
3. With the pending arrival of the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, what preparations are being made now to prepare your staff and this aircraft’s future aviators?

The F-35B will be arriving here in Yuma this winter. Our first hangar is almost complete. The Marines and Sailors of the unit have been arriving, and on October 1st of this year, we plan on holding a ceremony to commemorate the unit’s stand-up here in Yuma — the stand-up of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121. The MAG-13 staff, working with MCAS Yuma, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, and Headquarters Marine Corps, is preparing for the arrival of the first aircraft and for getting the pilots and maintainers trained for their mission. It is an exciting time for MAG-13 — a historic time — and we are looking forward to having the first operational F-35B squadron in the Marine Corps and the first operational Joint Strike Fighter squadron in the world.
 
4. As the F-35B JSF squadron phases in, the first AV-8B Harrier squadron is set to deactivate.  When will the first AV-8B squadron deactivate and what will happen with the Harriers and personnel from this squadron?

As the Marine Corps transitions several aircraft types to the F-35, the AV-8B will be a large part of that transition process.  VMFA-121’s stand-up as an F-35B squadron this winter is one step in that transition process. Another step next summer will be when VMA-513 deactivates as an AV-8B squadron and the aircraft are redistributed across MAG-13 here in Yuma and to MAG-14 in Cherry Point, NC. The important note for the Marines and Sailors of VMA-513 is that there is a plan for all of them, whether it is to be reassigned within the AV-8B squadrons of the MAG, to transition to the F-35 program, to accept orders to another duty station, or to leave the Marine Corps on their terms upon reaching the end of their enlistment contract.
 
5. As an AV-8B Harrier pilot, what are your favorite memories flying this aircraft?  And, if given the chance, would you take the opportunity to fly the F-35B?

I have many favorite memories from my 20 years of flying the AV-8B. I’ll never forget flying the aircraft for the first time and my first vertical landing. I’ll always remember the instructor saying, “trust me, it works” as we decelerated for the landing — because unlike the unique Harrier, every other jet stops flying once you slow past a certain airspeed. I’ll remember my first flight across the Pacific, my first close air support mission for forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, my first landing on an aircraft carrier.  Lots of great memories.  But my true favorite memories airborne are not of me flying the aircraft, they are of the many pilots I have trained or influenced over the years, watching them succeed at the mission and often surpassing what I have done in the aircraft.  And of course, I will never forget the nearly super-human effort of the Marines and Sailors that work very long and difficult hours — in peace and in war — to keep the aircraft flying, to keep the pilots trained, and to support all of our commitments at home and abroad.  Oh, and if given the chance to fly the F-35B, would I? Hell yes!




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