History: The history of the Expeditionary Airfield (EAF) and its supporting units is closely interwoven. In March of 1977, General Louis H. Wilson, the 26th Commandant, activated the EAF. The initial unit placed in charge of the EAF was designated Detachment MABS-11. Two years later, in July 1979, Detachment MABS-11 became operationally attached to MWSG-37 and was redesignated MWSG-37, Detachment Bravo in 1982. Originally, only a cadre of Marines provided caretaker support for the EAF between exercises. However, during October 1988 MWSS-173 was transferred from MCAS Kaneohe Bay to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms in support of the EAF. On 4 March 1993, MWSS-173 was deactivated and Aviation Ground Support Element (AGSE) was activated to continue operating and maintaining the EAF. On 1 April 1999, AGSE deactivated and was redesignated as Marine Wing Support Squadron-374. Currently the squadron is nearly 400 strong, and possesses the ability to operate a tactical airfield including air traffic control services and maintaining ground and weapons support equipment for aircraft.
The 29 Palms EAF is under operational control of the Commanding General, Third Marine Aircraft Wing. Day-to-day operations are the responsibility of the Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 374. The EAF was built in 1976 to test the Naval services aluminum expeditionary runway concept. The austere EAF is an example of what Naval aviation would use in a tactical situation where no prior airfield exists. It is a cornerstone of the Marine Corps' Combined Arms Exercise (CAX) Program. Today's EAF has changed very little since the original construction. Over three million square feet of aluminum AM-2 matting make up the primary runway, taxiways, and parking areas. The EAF operates as a "host nation" airfield to which deployed units bring their own organic support. Support functions provided at the EAF include the following: Airfield Operations, Air Traffic Control, Airfield Construction, Maintenance and Repair, Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting, Common Aviation Support Equipment, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Weather Services, Communications, Aircraft Refueling, Fuel Storage, Engineer Support, and Motor Transport.
221 days operational 13,548 fight operations 80 arrested landings 6,236 aircraft supported 3.9 million gallons of JP-5 84 aircraft emergency responses
The "Rhino" emblem was adopted in conjunction with the redesignation of Aviation Ground Support Element (AGSE) to Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 in April 1999. At that time, MWSS-374 assumed AGSE's mission of operating and maintaining the Twentynine Palms Expeditionary Airfield (EAF), in addition to its doctrinal mission of providing habitual Aviation Ground Support to Marine Aircraft Group 16. The emblem consists of a Rhino on a bright blue field bordered by scarlet and gold banners, top and bottom, containing the squadron name (MWSS-374) and nickname (Rhinos). The Marines and Sailors that operate and maintain the EAF had traditionally been known throughout Marine Aviation as the "Rhinos". The blue field represents the clear blue desert skies, and the scarlet and gold banners represent the Marine Corps colors. Just as the tough Rhino hide is analogous to the non-skid coated aluminum matting that makes up the EAF, the Rhino nickname and motto -- "Keep Charging" -- truly depict the toughness of the Marines and Sailors that operate and maintain the EAF in the austere desert conditions of Twentynine Palms.