MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. -- The Marine Corps Aviation Association (MCAA) hosts a competition in which both squadrons and individual Marines strive to win top honors in one of 29 aviation categories, which they have presented annually since 1962 to the best aviators in the Marine Corps.
“There are several awards the MCAA has created to recognize not only squadrons, but deserving officers and enlisted Marines,” said Capt. Christopher Lavergne, a KC-130J Super Hercules pilot and power line officer in charge with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352.
Each award is named after a Marine aviator, who made great achievements during their career in their military occupational specialty. VMGR-352 received the 2017 Henry Wildfang award as the Marine aerial refueler transport squadron of the year, says Capt. James Potucek, an aircraft commander and pilot for VMGR-352.
Maj. Henry “Bud” Wildfang was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Gray Eagle award for landing in Khe Sanh while taking enemy automatic small arms fire while hauling fuel for his fellow Marines resulting in the deaths of three out of four crew members and leaving him severely injured.
“The Henry Wildfang award is not only a safety award because we had the most mishap free hours, but it also recognizes excellence through our variety of mission sets,” said Lavergne. “We were awarded this for accomplishing our missions such as air-to-air refueling, aviation delivery of assets, multi-sensor imagery reconnaissance and all other aspects of assault transport better than the other squadrons this year.”
The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing received eight of the 29 awards. The 2017 winning squadrons with the 3rd MAW are: VMGR-352, winners of the Henry Wildfang award; Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 267, winners of the John P. Giguere award; and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 39 winners of the Donald E. Davis award. The awards recognized the squadrons as the squadron of the year in their respective areas.
The following Marines with 3rd MAW individually received an award for their actions: Capt. Michael R. Jacobellis, Marine Air Control Group (MACG) 38, Robert F. Gibson award; Sgt. Cameron A. Koerner, Marine Heavy Helicopter (HMH) 466, Danny L. Radish award; Sgt. Christopher E. Norman, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 39, Paul G. Vess award; Master Sgt. Lance A. Gruben, Marine Aircraft Group (MACG) 38, Kenneth A. Innis award; Sgt. Jordan K. Mercado, Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 373, Jack W. Demmond award.
“Everyone wants to do well and win awards,” said Potucek. “It’s just a result of our dedication.”