Harrier, F-35 group commander departs, new commander welcomed
Marines, sailors, civilian employees and community members gathered at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma for an official change of command ceremony Thursday for the incoming and outgoing commanding officers of Marine Aircraft Group 13.
During the ceremony, MAG-13 bade farewell to Col. Michael Gough as he relinquished command of the aviation unit he has led for the past two years to Col. Christopher McPhillips, who is returning to MCAS Yuma for the fifth time in his military career.
“I'm humbled and honored to have served with this team, served within the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, to be the commander of this great group.” Gough said. “It's a great Marine aircraft group, it's a great unit. It went by real fast, but it was a full two years, full of everything you could want, full of every challenge that you could expect, and full of dedication from the Marines. We had triumph, we had challenges, we had tragedy. We had inspiration following tragedy and recovery.”
Gough, who took command of MAG-13 in May 2010 and oversaw the build-up and arrival of the F-35B Lightning II to MCAS Yuma, will transfer to Camp Pendleton and serve as the I Marine Expeditionary Force Chief of Staff.
In his remarks as the outgoing commander, Gough thanked his staff saying while many people have served under his command the past two years, their standard of excellence has never changed. He also praised all the Marines and sailors in the MAG saying they have always done everything he has asked them to do.
He also wished McPhillips the “best of luck,” saying he knew the aviation group was in good hands and that he hoped the command would be as rewarding for him as it had been the past two years he had commanded it.
A naval aviator since 1989, Gough previously served in Yuma as a Harrier Pilot with Marine Attack Squadron 211 for two tours and as the commander of VMA-311.
The ceremony, which had elements of all the units in the aircraft group standing in formation and a Harrier and Lightening II as a backdrop, was held on the flight line outside of the air station's Main Operations building.
McPhillips comes to MAG-13 from the Pentagon, where he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a Military Assistant supporting independent advisory groups researching Satellite Acquisitions and Fuel Pricing hedging strategies for the Department of Defense.
“When I first got here, I got the sense the MAG is one unit, and it really is,” McPhillips said. “And (Col. Gough) has done a phenomenal job putting it all together.”
With over 20 years as a naval aviator, McPhillips previously served in Yuma as a Harrier pilot with VMA-311, as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron instructor pilot and as Commander of VMA-214 Blacksheeps.
As the incoming commanding officer of MAG 13, McPhillips will command the Corps' four west coast AV-8B
Harrier Squadrons, the only operational F-35B Lightning II Squadron, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 and Marine Wing Support Squadron 371. The group falls under the command of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and the I Marine Expeditionary Force.
McPhillips said while his goal will to be to continue to produce combat ready aviators, maintainers and ground personnel, he would also strive to carry on the outstanding work Gough has done for the aviation unit. That outstanding work, McPhillips went on to say, includes continuing to oversee the build-up and arrival of the F-35B Lightning II.
“I'm super excited,” McPhillips said. “I hope for good flying weather. Everything else we can deal with.”
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.