MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Maj. Gen. Michael Rocco, commanding general of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, flew his final flight in an AH-1W Super Cobra aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California, July 7, 2016.
It was the summation of 30 years of flying with 3rd MAW, said Rocco.
“I chose to fly the AH-1W because it was the aircraft that I went to war with in [operations] Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and it took good care of me during those wars," said Rocco.
Rocco flew the AH-1W for an hour and returned to every Marine assigned to Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 39 awaiting his arrival on the flight line.
It was important for them to take out a little bit of time to welcome him back from his last flight, said Col. Michael Borgschulte, commanding officer of MAG-39.
“Gen. Rocco has always been someone we have all looked up to, and he’s mentored many of us,” added Borgschulte. “This was something we really wanted to do for him. We wanted to make sure we showed him the kind of respect and admiration that we have for him.”
According to Rocco, he was humbled to see the Marines out on the flight line with Borgschulte leading the charge.
Rocco is one of those leaders that truly lives by his motto “mission first, people always,” said Borgschulte.
“He truly cares about people, not just Marines, but their families and our civilian employees in a genuine fashion, but never loses sight of the mission,” said Borgschulte. “You have to be ready to go to war, and your people are what allow you to get to that very high state of readiness."
Rocco said the Marines and Sailors make his job easy.
"I stand on the shoulders of giants, and those shoulders are the 17,000 Marines and Sailors that make up the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing,” said Rocco. “They are absolutely incredible. They inspire me every day to work hard and to come here and do what I'm doing.”
According to Borgschulte, it’s sad to have his mentor leaving but he knows Rocco is not done.
“He's going off to do bigger and better things and I have no doubt that we will fight alongside each other once again in the future,” said Borgschulte. “There is only one Gen. Rocco, he's irreplaceable. We have a fantastic general replacing him but Gen. Rocco is a special leader."
Rocco is slated to relinquish command of 3rd MAW to Maj. Gen. Mark Wise on July 22, 2016.
"I'm absolutely thrilled to be handing over command to such an extraordinary leader and a good friend,” said Rocco. “I know the wing is going to be in great hands with Gen. Wise as the CG.”
According to Rocco, it’s bittersweet to be leaving 3rd MAW.
"I've had 25 months of command,” said Rocco. “As much as I'd like to stay for another 25 months, it's time for the next guy to come and lead the Marine Corps' greatest wing."