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VMA-311 changes hands in Iraq

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 200534161332
Story by Pfc. Dustin M. Rawls

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. (March 3, 2005) -- Lt. Col. Robert Kuckuk took control of Marine Attack Squadron-311 from Col. Clyde Woltman during a change of command ceremony in Al Asad, Iraq, Monday.

Woltman, who commanded the VMA-311 "Tomcats" for 18 months, said he hasn't found out what his next assignment will be, but knows it will be in the Washington area.

"There are a few different assignments available at this time, but I am awaiting a final decision from Headquarters Marine Corps with respect to my new billet," he said.

Kuckuk, formerly the Marine Aircraft Group-13 operations officer, said he is confident about the current state of his squadron's capabilities.

"There will be minor changes that all the Marines expect when a new commander comes to a unit," he explained. "However, Col. Woltman has built a powerhouse team that is doing an outstanding job. The best thing for me to do is not try to fix something that isn't broken."

Kuckuk does foresee his first challenge as VMA-311's new commander, however.
"Following our deployment, Marines will rotate and we'll lose substantial experience," he said. "That will be the true test -- keeping the focus of safe and tactical training while rebuilding this winning team. That's the direction I plan to take the squadron."

Kuckuk believes the commanding general of 3rd Marine Air Wingshowed a lot of confidence in VMA-311's Marines by permitting the change of command to go while in Iraq.

"The CG would be perfectly justified in keeping the known quality he has in the current CO," explained Kuckuk. "But he knows a strong team when he sees one. He has confidence in the abilities of the Tomcats' officers and Marines to take this change in stride."

Kuckuk hails from Madison, Wis., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a Bachelor of Science in industrial education in 1986. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1987 and designated a naval aviator in February 1990.

Kuckuk's first duty assignment was also in Yuma. He served as a schedule writer, airframes officer, logistics officer, quality assurance officer and assistant maintenance officer with VMA-214.

Woltman said he has confidence in Kuckuk and his abilities to command the squadron, and he is very proud of the squadron's Marines and everything they've accomplished during his time as their commanding officer.

"I could not be more proud of VMA-311 and our accomplishments while conducting combat operations here in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II," he said.

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