Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station
Just 17 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, construction began on the Marine Corps air station known as Cherry Point. Once only North Carolina swampland and forest, Cherry Point is now the world's largest Marine Corps Air Station, and home to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. The wing consists of six groups; four aircraft groups, flying all combat aircraft in the Marine inventory, one aircraft control group and one engineer group. MCAS Cherry Point hosts Marine Air Group 14 (MAG-14), and also serves as the host installation for Commander Marine Corps Air Bases East (COMCABEAST). MAG-14 is the primary East Coast operating unit for the Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier (four squadrons) and EA-6B Prowler (four squadrons). The Group also includes four squadrons of KC-130 tankers and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) squadron.
The MCAS's major task is supporting 2dMAW to train to go anywhere, at anytime, to fight and to win and to have an enhanced quality of life. Along with readiness and quality of life issues are the challenges to protect the environment in the surrounding communities and to be good neighbors to our friends in the Crystal Coast area.
MCAS Cherry Point's mission is to provide the highest quality operating environment for all using activities; operate and maintain facilities and assigned aircraft; furnish a full range of vital support services; nurture the quality of life; protect the natural environment; conduct proactive community relations; and to provide America with the best trained, best led, best supported armed forces capable of operating anytime, anywhere - to fight, win and survive.
Located only 20 miles from some of the Atlantic's most beautiful beaches, Cherry Point is about 90 miles west-southwest of Cape Hatteras at the foot of the great Outer Banks. It is perhaps appropriate that the home of such a powerful aviation arsenal is just down the coast from Kitty Hawk, where winged aviation got its start.
More than 49,000 people make up the Cherry Point-related population, including active duty and retired Marines, the civilian workforce, and their dependents. The area here enjoys a temperate climate with relatively mild winters, hot summers and precipitation throughout the year.
Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point now includes 13,164 acres on the air station proper, with an additional 15,975 acres of auxiliary activities, including Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, along Bogue Sound in Carteret County.
The largest command at Cherry Point is the 2d Marine Aircraft Wing. The 2d MAW headquarters is located at Cherry Point, as well as Marine Aircraft Group 14, Marine Wing Support Group 27 and Marine Air Control Group 28. Other 2d MAW units include helicopter squadrons at MCAS New River, N.C., and F/A-18 Hornet squadrons at MCAS Beaufort, S.C.
Marine Aircraft Group 14's flying squadrons include three AV-8B Harrier squadrons, four EA-6B Prowler squadrons and one KC-130 Hercules refueling squadron. The Marine Corps' only Harrier training squadron and only Hercules training squadron are also located at the air station. Harriers are used primarily for close air support of ground troops and Cherry Point squadrons own both AV-8B II Harriers and AV-8B II Plus models. The mission of the Prowler squadrons is to suppress enemy radar and surface-to-air missiles, using electronic jamming equipment and High-speed Anti-radiation Missiles (HARM), as well as gathering electronic intelligence data. The KC-130 squadrons are primarily configured for aerial refueling missions, but troop and cargo transport can also be accomplished with the workhorse Hercules airframe.
Marine Wing Support Group 27 provides logistical support for the wing with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 located at the air station and Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 providing support for MCALF Bogue.
Marine Air Control Group 28 employs some of the most advanced equipment for command of tactical air operations. The Marines who control the air war are defended by a battalion of Marines who employ the Stinger anti-aircraft missile system to control the skies overhead.
Other major tenant units at MCAS Cherry Point are the Naval Aviation Depot and the U.S. Naval Hospital.
Approximately 7,486 Marines and sailors stationed at Cherry Point earn an annual payroll of about $215 million. Combined with the station's nearly 5,700 civilian employees, more than $480 million is pumped into the local economy yearly from Cherry Point. These salaries, in addition to local expenditures for supplies and capital improvements, add up to more than $610 million economic impact in the state annually.
When visitors come to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, one of the first things many of them notice is the roar of jet aircraft passing over the front gate on their way to or from runway number "zero-five." Outside the gate, on a sign .... are the words, "Pardon our noise, it's the sound of freedom." For more than 50 years, those sounds of freedom have echoed through local skies, from the deep guttural growl of amphibious biplanes and single wing attack aircraft during World War II, to the piercing whine of today's sleek and sophisticated jets. Those sounds are music to the ears of the Marines who fight on the ground, for there is nothing Marines like better than to have Marine artillery behind them, Marine intelligence in front of them, and Marine aircraft overhead.
Stories of how Cherry Point got its name are many and varied, but this story, according to old timers and other reliable sources, is said to be authentic. It is said that the name "Cherry Point" came from a post office established in the area for the Blades Lumber people some years ago. The post office was closed in 1935. The original "Point" was on the south side of the Neuse River east of Hancock Creek, and the word "Cherry" came from cherry trees that once grew on the "Point." Today, an avenue of young cherry trees grows along the main boulevard inside the entrance to the air station.
Construction of the 8,000-acre Marine Corps air field at Cherry Point began in late summer 1941. The land had been purchased for about $15 per acre. The December attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese lent an urgency to completion of the complex, located in Craven County between New Bern and Morehead City. On May 20, 1942, the facility was commissioned Cunningham Field, named in honor of the Marine Corps' first aviator, LtCol. Alfred A. Cunningham. The completed facility was later renamed Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, after a local post office situated among cherry trees.
Cherry Point's primary World War II mission was to train units and individual Marines for service the Pacific theater. The air station also served as a base for anti-submarine operations, with an Army Air Corps and Navy unit each being responsible for sinking of a German U-boat just off the North Carolina coast during 1943.
Cherry Point's contribution to the Korean War effort was to provide a steady stream of trained aviators and air crewmen as well as maintenance and support personnel as replacements to forward deployed aviation units.
During the Vietnam War, Cherry Point deployed three A-6 Intruder squadrons to the Far East and again provided a constant source of replacements for aircrews and enlisted aviation personnel.
In Operation Desert Storm, after almost two decades of peacetime operations, Cherry Point was a major participant, supporting the deployment of all available AV-8B Harriers, KC-130 Hercules and EA-6B Prowler squadrons and aircraft to ensure victory in Southwest Asia.
Cherry Point is located midway between New Bern and Morehead City, N.C. The main gate is off North Carolina Highway 101, which connects with U.S. Highway 70 adjacent to the city of Havelock. On a large-scale map, Cherry Point can be pinpointed about 90 miles west-southwest of Cape Hatteras on the Neuse River in Craven County.
The area enjoys a temperate climate with relatively mild winters, hot and humid summers, and precipitation throughout the year. The average annual rainfall is over 50 inches, and snow, although rare, does visit the area occasionally. Topography is relatively flat, approximately 27 feet above sea level.
Cherry Point is closely linked to the communities in the Crystal Coast area. Annexed by the City of Havelock several years ago, the base enjoys the support and friendship of the growing City. The area citizens are diverse, coming from all over the world to make their home in Havelock and on the Crystal Coast. This divergence has caused civic and social opportunities to abound. New area residents are urged to get involved and become a member of the organization of their choice, to help with the recreation program, and to adopt the area as "home" while serving at Cherry Point.
Cherry Point is located adjacent to the City of Havelock, a dynamic and fast-growing city. Havelock is the most populated urban area in a three-county region that encompasses some of the state's most beautiful beaches, waterways, and forests, as well as popular historical, residential, and recreation attractions.
The Havelock Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee (MAC) serves as a vital informal communications link among and between MCAS Cherry Point, the Chamber of Commerce, the Havelock City Commissioners, the Craven County Board of Commissioners, the Governor's Advisory Commission on Military Affairs, the Civilian Military Community Council, and state and federal legislators. The MAC programs include Military family recognition, fish fries for base military personnel, football trips or golf outings, and welcoming and farewell events for command personnel.
Located on four-lane US 70, Havelock is no more than a half-hour's drive from: the warm Atlantic beaches of the "Crystal Coast" area of Morehead City, Atlantic Beach, and Emerald Isle; the historic city of New Bern, North Carolina's first colonial capital at Tryon Palace; the villages of Oriental and Beaufort; ferry rides across the Neuse River; to Ocracoke Island and to the Cape Lookout National Seashore. Havelock is bounded on one side by the Neuse River and on the other by the 160,000 acre Croatan National Forest. The wide river and meandering creeks are ideal for power boating, sailing, fishing, and swimming. The unique coastal plain forest offers hiking, birdwatching, camping, picnicking, and hunting.
Havelock-Cherry Point (Civilian-Military) are leaders in Eastern North Carolina on environmental issues, quality of life programs, and schools. Havelock is the future home of the Alfred A. Cunningham Aviation Museum which is projected to be a world-class Museum depicting Marine Corps Aviation from the beginning. The City has completed one of North Carolina's most outstanding municipal sports complexes. The 50-acre complex provides a wide variety of facilities for recreation: walking and jogging trails, tennis courts, handball courts, four baseball fields, track, softball and soccer fields.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to close Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, PA. As a result, would relocate the following units from Willow Grove to Fleet Readiness Center East at Cherry Point: intermediate maintenance workload and capacity for Aircraft Components, Aircraft Engines, Fabrication & Manufacturing, and Support Equipment. This recommendation would leverage maintenance and operational efficiencies within Marine Corps Reserve Aviation and would maintain reserve forces in areas with favorable demographics.
DoD would realign Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC, by disestablishing storage and distribution functions for tires, packaged petroleum, oils, and lubricants, and compressed gases. This recommendation would achieve economies and efficiencies that would enhance the effectiveness of logistics support to forces as they transition to more joint and expeditionary operations. This recommendation would disestablish the wholesale supply, storage, and distribution functions for all tires; packaged petroleum, oils and lubricants; and compressed gases used by the Department of Defense, retaining only the supply contracting function for each commodity. The Department would privatize these functions and would rely on private industry for the performance of supply, storage, and distribution of these commodities. By doing so, the Department could divest itself of inventories and eliminate infrastructure and personnel associated with these functions. This recommendation would result in more responsive supply support to user organizations and would thus add to capabilities of the future force. The recommendation would provide improved support during mobilization and deployment, and the sustainment of forces when deployed worldwide. Privatization would enable the Department to take advantage of the latest technologies, expertise, and business practices, which translates to improved support to customers at less cost. It centralizes management of tires; packaged petroleum, oils, and lubricants; and compressed gases and eliminates unnecessary duplication of functions within the Department.
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