Marine Aircraft Group 49 [MAG-49]
The Reserve Units at Willow Grove are manned by almost 800 U.S. Marine Corps Reservists from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Maryland. These Citizen-Marines are part of the 2000 Marines at MAG-49 sites and the 42,000 U.S. Marine Corps Reservists training throughout the United States. They train one weekend a month and serve on active duty for two weeks every summer at a regular Marine Corps base.
The Selected Marine Corps Reserve Program at NAS JRB Willow Grove is the second largest organization in the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing and the largest military activity in Pennsylvania. The U.S. Marine Corps Reserve units stationed at NAS JRB Willow Grove are:
- Headquarters, Marine Aircraft Group 49 (MAG-49)
- Marine Attack Squadron 131 (VMA-131)
- Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 772 (HMH-772)
- Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773
- Detachment A (HMLA-773 Det A)
- Marine Air Control Squadron 24 Det B (MACS-24)
- Marine Wing Support Squadron 474 (MWSS-474)
As the Aviation Group Headquarters, MAG-49's two Dets, Det A at Andrews AFB, has VMFA-321 flying the F/A-18s, a MALS Det and MASD which has the C-12 and GU-20. Det B at Stewart ANGB NY, consists of VMGR-452 flying the KC-130 and MALS-49.
On 26 February 1946, Marine Air Reserve Training Command (MARTC) was activated at NAS Glenview, Illinois. Three Marine Air Detachments (MADS) were also formed on this date: Atlanta, Dallas and Glenview. Within a year, 21 more MADS were formed and consisted of 24 Marine Fighter Squadrons (VMF), and 8 Ground Control Intercept Squadrons (GCIS). One of these squadrons, VMF-451 was established at the Naval Air Station, Willow Grove, Pennsylvania in April 1946. On 1 February 1947, Ground Control Squadron 17 (GCIS) was organized at Willow Grove under the MAD. In August 1950 all Marine Corps Reservists of CGIS-17 were mobilized for the Korean conflict and remained on active duty until the reorganization of the squadron began in October 1951. Training progressed smoothly for VMF-451 and on 3 January 1951 they were activated as a unit to serve in Korea.
On 24 June 1950, Marine Air Reserve Ground Control Intercept Squadron 26 (GCIS-26) was formed at New York. On 3 August 1950 mobilization of the unit began and the unit remained unmanned until 20 June 1952, when members returned from active duty. Also in 1952, upon reorganization of the Marine Corps Reserve, 17 Air Reserve Training Detachments remained of the 21 MADS and all were staffed by regular Marines.
March 1, 1954 saw GCIS-26 at Brooklyn, New York, redesignated as Marine Air Traffic Control Squadron (MATCS) to reflect the Marine Corps wide redesignation of many such units. On 15 April 1958, Helicopter Transport Squadron 772 was activated. In October 1951, MACS-17 began reorganization at Willow Grove when the reservists were released from active duty. 1959 saw Marine Air Reserve Group 25 (MARG-25) as the senior Reserve command at Willow Grove with VMF-511 attached.
1962 was a year of change for the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing with Marine Aircraft Group 43 (MAG-43) being reactivated on 1 July, along with Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 43 (H&MS-43). Helicopter Transport Squadron 772 was redesignated on April 1 to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 772 (HMM-772). On 1 February 1963, MACS-26 Marine Air Base Squadron 43 (MABS-43) was reactivated at Willow Grove.
Major reorganization on 1 February 1965 saw H&MS-43, MABS-43, VMF-511, and MACS-17 all reassigned to MAG-43. MATCU-73 at this time was assigned to the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing and remained in New York. On November 1, 1965, MATCU-73 was reassigned to MAG-43 and on May 1, 1967 the Unit transferred to Willow Grove from Brooklyn, New York.
In 1971 HMM-772 transitioned to the CH-53A helicopter and was redesignated HMH-772 and transferred to Marine Aircraft Group 43, NAS Willow Grove.
In September 1972, Marine Aircraft Group 43 was redesignated Marine Aircraft Group 49, and MAG-49 Headquarters was moved from NAS Lakehurst, New Jersey to NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.
During August of 1991, Marine Air Traffic Control Squadron-48, Detachment B was mobilized to conduct Air Traffic Control Operations at MCAS Yuma, MCAS El Toro and MCAF Camp Pendleton, California at the onset of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Members of Marine Wing Support Squadron 73 Detachment A were mobilized to MCAS New River, North Carolina to support station operations while active duty personnel were being deployed the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations. Individual members of Marine Aircraft Group 49, reserve and active duty, were mobilized according to their job specialties and sent directly to serve with various units in Saudi Arabia.
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 772 was called for mobilization shortly after the Kuwaiti Liberation in support of the Marine Corps' Unit Deployment Program. Initially sent to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing to augment with its sister squadron from NAS Dallas, Texas, HMH-772 was then reassigned to the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS El Toro, California to prepare for overseas deployment to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing at MCAS Futenma Japan. While deployed, HMH-772 performed just as any active squadron and assisted in the evacuation efforts (Operation FIERY VIGIL) following the eruption of Mount Pinatuba in the Republic of the Philippines. During the unit's period of mobilization, HMH-772 was attached to each of the Marine Corps' four aircraft wings.
In August 1994 Marine Attack Squadron 131 (VMA-131) relinquished all of its A-4 Skyhawk aircrafts and awaited a determination of its future mission.
Administration, training, and support of Reserve activities are handled by approximately 200 active component Marines. Each of these Marines is assigned to one of the reserve units at Willow Grove for mobilization purposes. Should MAG-49 be mobilized, these Marines would go along as integral members of their units and they play an important role in their local communities of Horsham, Willow Grove and others throughout the immediate area.
The Mission of Marine Aircraft Group 49 (MAG-49) is to provide the Active Component a Combat Ready Force to augment and reinforce regular forces in Major Regional Contingency (MRC) and to provide relief to these forces during times of high tempo operations. Training must be such that this integration is seamless. Additionally, MAG 49 will reach out to the community in which it serves to tell the Marine Corps story, establish a civilian support base, and when so tasked, to provide assistance to the community during emergencies or disaster relief.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to close Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, PA. As a result, MAG-49 along with all Navy and Marine Corps squadrons at Willow Grove, their aircraft and necessary personnel, equipment and support, were recommended to relocate to McGuire Air Force Base.
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