The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW) was commissioned on the 167th anniversary of the Marine Corps, November 10, 1942, at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, North Carolina with a personnel roster of 13 officers, 25 enlisted men and one aircraft-a trainer.
The Wing’s combat history began with the World War II deployment of a bomber squadron on December 3, 1943. A little more than a year later, the Wing deployed a night fighter squadron in support of the war effort.
On April 21, 1944, the Wing boarded three carriers for a voyage to Hawaii and arrived May 8, where it assumed the functions of Marine Air, Hawaii Area. When the Japanese surrendered, 3rd MAW was decommissioned and its personnel were assigned to other units. The Wing had played an important, but behind-the-scenes, role in defeating the Japanese by giving the best training available to Marine pilots and support personnel.
In 1952, as the Corps again fought in the Far East, the Wing was reactivated at Cherry Point for the Korean War. The main portion of the Wing began moving to the new MCAS Miami, Florida- the Marine Corps’ first “flying field.”
In September 1955, the Wing left Miami for MCAS El Toro, California. 3d MAW was rebuilt again, with the addition of Marine Aircraft Groups (MAG) 15, followed by MAG-36 with its helicopter squadrons at a nearby Air Station in Santa Ana, California. Wing squadrons were detached and deployed to Vietnam as combat action in Southeast Asia flared. At the end of the Vietnam War several units were brought back to the United States and deactivated or re-designated, creating the 3rd MAW of today.
The Wing saw action again as part of I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), conducting operations in Iraq and Kuwait during Operation DESERT SHIELD, Operation DESERT STORM, and Operation SABER. After the end of hostilities, 3rd MAW aircraft provided support in Operations PROVIDE COMFORT and Operation SOUTHERN WATCH over Iraq. The Wing was once more called into service in Somalia for Operation RESTORE HOPE.
The fall of 2001 would reveal a new type of challenge, the Global War on Terror, and 3d MAW answered the call again by deploying units in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM both in Afghanistan and neighboring countries. Beginning in the fall of 2002, 3rd MAW deployed forces to Kuwait in preparation for combat operations in Iraq. 3rd MAW provided decisive aviation fires for I MEF and coalition forces in liberation of Iraq during Operation IRAQI FREEDON and subsequent stability operations. 3d MAW continued to deploy in support of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to include the 3rd MAW (Forward) Aviation Combat Element Headquarters at Camp Leatherneck, Regional Command Southwest, Afghanistan in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the latter of which planned and executed the withdrawal of Marine Aviation Forces from the Helmand Province and subsequent end to Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.
Today, the Marines and Sailors of 3rd MAW are deployed on land and sea conducting combat operations in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE in Iraq and Syria and Operation RESOLUTE SUPPORT in Afghanistan, and are forward deployed and ready to respond to any ongoing or emerging crisis or contingency. The 3rd MAW has a well-proven, colorful battle history. As part of the nation’s force in readiness, the Marines and Sailors of 3rd MAW stand prepared to meet any and all challenges the future may bring. PREPARED IN PEACE AND WAR- SEMPER FIDELIS.