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Sgt. Maj. Michael Pritchard, left, the outgoing sergeant major of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39, embraces his family during his relief and appointment ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 6. Pritchard is slated to take on the role of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing sergeant major in Okinawa, Japan. He relinquished the post of MAG-39 sergeant major to Sgt Maj. Chad Butts, the previous sergeant major of Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron (MWHS) 3. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Nadia Stark/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Nadia Stark

Passing of the sword: sharing the legacy

9 Mar 2017 | Lance Cpl. Liah Kitchen 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

It was a sunny day on Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, as the post of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39 sergeant major changed hands from Sgt. Maj. Michael Pritchard to Sgt. Maj. Chad Butts, March 6, at the MCAS Camp Pendleton flightline in front of the MAG-39 headquarters building.

“The relationship that exists between a sergeant major and a commander is a special relationship,” said Col. Michael Borgschulte, commanding officer of MAG-39. “As a commander, you don’t get to choose your sergeant major, but I would choose to have Sgt. Maj. Pritchard as my sergeant major, time and time again.”

Pritchard has served in the Marine Corps since 1992.  During his career, he has been stationed all over the world in places such as: Iwakuni and Okinawa, Japan, Cherry Point, North Carolina, Parris Island and Beaufort, South Carolina and Camp Pendleton, California. Throughout his 25 years of service, Pritchard  has deployed six times in support of five operations. He is leaving MAG-39 to take the post of sergeant major for the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, located in Okinawa, Japan. This is the first time Pritchard will serve under a general officer.

During the ceremony, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (with three gold stars in lieu of fourth award). The medal citation highlighted Pritchard’s achievements while with MAG-39, which also includes initiating the MAG-39 corporal’s course that has graduated more than 700 corporals. 

“In establishing our corporal’s course, he was really an engaged leader,” said Borgshulte. “He trained the instructors, gave classes in the course, set up spaces for the Marines to train and stayed late after work to grade exams.”

During the ceremony, Pritchard honored his older brother, Matt, by giving him the Meritorious Service Medal he had been awarded because according to Pritchard, his brother Matt paved the way for the successes he has today.

“Because of Matt, I became a Marine and my brothers became Marines,” said Pritchard, who also thanked all the Marines of MAG-39, adding that every one of them had taught him something.

“The Marines standing behind me are truly exceptional,” said Pritchard. “Watching these Marines succeed and beat every metric and expectation, has been the highlight of my tour.”

Pritchard wishes Butts success, and hopes to watch that success from across the Pacific Ocean.

Butts, who previously served as the Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron (MWHS) 3 sergeant major, thanked the assembled guests for the opportunity to serve as the group sergeant major.

“I’m excited to lead the Marines of MAG-39,” said Butts. “My goal is to carry on with the great things that Sgt. Maj. Pritchard has started from scratch here.”


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