Aviation operations have played an integral part of Marine Corps participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Marine Aircraft Wings have controlled the skies above Al Anbar province since Marine operations began here in February 2004. As Anbar continues to progress in stabilization and the return to normalcy, the requirement for Marines and equipment continues to decrease.

On Nov. 2, 2009, 2nd MAW (Forward) ended MAW-level operations in Al Anbar by relinquishing the role as the Aviation Combat Element for Multi National Force – West to Marine Aircraft Group 26 (Reinforced) in a ceremony aboard Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.

During the time MAWs operated in support of OIF, their blood and sweat brought Iraq steadily closer to the stability it radiates today through hundreds of thousands of missions.

In total, [MAWs in support of OIF] have flown almost 300,000 sorties, for a total of almost 450,000 flight hours, said Brig. Gen. Robert S. Walsh, the commanding general of 2nd MAW (Fwd). Our aircraft and crews have decreased the [improvised explosive device] threat to our Marines and soldiers by keeping [personnel] off the roads, safely transporting 800,000 passengers and over 100 million pounds of cargo.

Although the list of responsibilities may shorten as MAG-26 (Rein) takes over, mission-essential aerial operations will still proceed according to the needs of Multi National Force – West

Even though this is the end of wing-level operations, there is still flying to be done, said Maj. Gen. R.T. Tryon, the commanding general of MNF-W. My congrats go out to the MAW leadership, for this has been one of the safest deployments since the opening of OIF.

Among the factors credited for allowing this down-sizing to occur were significant developments in security and stability throughout the Anbar province and the ever-growing independence of Iraqi Security Forces.

Col. James S. O’Meara, the commanding officer of MAG-26 (Rein), said the goal of the incoming unit will be to continue providing expeditious, efficient and effective maneuver options and combat support for continued operations throughout the region.

As the 2nd MAW (Fwd) Marines board planes and leave Iraq behind, they do so knowing they have made a lasting contribution to this budding democracy that will not soon be forgotten.

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