Marine Aircraft Group 26 [MAG-26]
Along with Marine Aircraft Group 29, MAG 26 currently provides direct helicopter support for Marine Forces Atlantic, in the form of troop transport, observation, heavy lift capability, command and control and light attack. But without the support from H&HS, MWSS-272, MACS-2 Det. B and the other supporting units, there would be no "team" in the adopted concept of "Team New River."
Marine Aircraft Group 26 was activated June 16, 1952 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., and assigned to the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing. The first operational Marine Aircraft Group arrived from MCAS Cherry Point in July 1954. Marine Aircraft Group 26, a group of helicopters originally commissioned in 1952, filled the needs of the Marine Corps to maintain a force which was expeditionary and amphibious in nature. In July 1954, the group relocated to Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. In December 1965, the group was designated Marine Aircraft Group (Helicopter Transport Light) 26. March 1, 1959, it was designated Marine Aircraft Group 26.
In its first 44 years, the MAG-26 mission was diverse and challenging. During this period, the group flew 10 different types of aircraft. Elements of MAG-26 participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis; intervention in the Dominican Republic; Antilles Disaster Relief Operation in the Dominican Republic; the Iranian hostage rescue attempt; Multinational Peacekeeping Force, Beirut, Lebanon; Operation Urgent Fury, Grenada and the Carriacou Islands; Hurricane Hugo relief, Puerto Rico and Charleston, S.C.; and Operation Sharp Edge, Monrovia, Liberia.
In December 1990, MAG-26 relocated in Jubail, Saudi Arabia, and to expeditionary airfield Lonesome Dove to support the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the 2d Marine Division in the liberation of Kuwait during Operations Desert Shield/Storm. The composite squadron included nine squadrons from MAG-26, MAG-29 and the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing.
Since the conflict in Southwest Asia, MAG-26 has been integral to the foreign policy of the United States. Elements of the group were involved in Operation Provide Comfort in northern Iraq and Turkey; Operation Victor Squared, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Operation Deny Flight in the former Yugoslavia and the Adriatic Sea. The group is one of the most heavily tasked and deployed units in the Marine Corps and provides special operations capable aviation combat elements for the Marine Expeditionary Units in sup port of Landing Force, 6th Fleet and Central Command elements.
Additionally tasked to support the air contingency forces, numerous special purpose Marine Air/Ground Task Forces and Joint Task Forces, MAG-26 maintained its position on the leading edge of Marine aviation.
Since January 1992, MAG-26 continued operating at surge capacity, supporting what amounts to three composite squadrons at almost any given time, which deployed with extremely short notice. The group participated in Operation Provide Promise, Adriatic Sea; Operation Southern Watch, Caribbean Sea, in which MAG-26 squadrons self-deployed in less than 12 hours, flew over a thousand miles and then embarked aboard ship; Operation Southern Support, Caribbean Sea; Operation Support Democracy, Caribbean Sea; Operation Sharp Guard, Adriatic Sea; Operation Continue Hope, Somalia; and Operation Uphold Democracy, Haiti. In addition to deployments around the world, from Jan. 1, 1993 to December 31, 1994, MAG-26 garrison squadrons accomplished an average of 10 major Marine exercises, 12 local exercises, 12 deployments for training, 45 replacement aircrews and more than 400 FRAGS per year, staggering 60,455 mishap-free flight hours over the past two years.
The beginning of 1995 was met with many firsts for MAG-26. In conjunction with USS O'Bannon, HMH-461 was the first fleet squadron to perform Hover In-flight Refueling while hovering astern a naval vessel. HMLA-167 was also the first squadron to employ Night Targeting System on the AH-1W Super Cobra.
As Hurricane Floyd moved up the East Coast in September 1999, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines have relocated hundreds of military aircraft and vessels out of Floyd's path, and evacuated all non-emergency military and civilians to help ensure their safety. From Marine Corps Air Station, New River, N.C., all flyable CH-53E aircraft from Marine Aircraft Group 26 were evacuated to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. All flyable CH-46E UH-1N and AH-1W aircraft from Marine Aircraft Group 26 and all flyable CH-53E, CH-46E, UH-1N and AH-1W from Marine Aircraft Group 29 were evacuated to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. All grounded aircraft were secured within station hangars.
On 23 May 2000 the main body of Marine Aircraft Group 26 arrived in Camp Assiros and Thessaloniki, Greece, bringing 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade to full force in preparation for Exercise Dynamic Mix 2000. The exercise, designed to enhance the interoperability of NATO ground, air and sea assets, marked the first time a MEB has been deployed since the Gulf War. The Aviation Combat Element of 2d MEB was comprised of approximately 1,215 2d Marine Aircraft Wing Marines and sailors under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 26 based in New River, N.C. Though 2d MAW assets operated mainly from Assiros and Thessaloniki, a detachment of Marine KC-130s also operated at Souda Bay, Crete, as well. Other 2d MEB components were spread throughout Greece, working in conjunction with troops from 14 other NATO countries in support of the exercise.
With a sustained mission capable rate of 85 percent, from Bosnia to Somalia, from Algeria to Haiti and across the continental United States, MAG-26 was the most deployed aircraft group in the Marine Corps.
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