RENO, Nevada -- The Marine Corps Aviation Association held it’s 34th annual symposium at the Reno Hilton, here, Oct. 12-15.
The highlight of the conference was the awards banquet held Oct. 15 to honor those individuals and units who distinguished themselves during the past year.
This year’s theme was, “Marine air: on time, on target, any clime, any place,” and was reflected by the achievements of the award recipients during operations around the world.
Gunnery Sgt. Anthony Garcia, received the James E. Nicholson Noncommissioned Officer Leadership Award for most significant example of leadership demonstrated by a noncommissioned officer in Marine Aviation.
“I had no idea I was getting the award,” said Garcia. The ordinance division staff noncommissioned officer for Marine All Weather attack Squadron 242, said he didn’t even know he had been nominated for the award. “It was a complete shock when I was told I was going to the symposium to receive an award. It was a huge honor.”
Garcia distinguished himself as the Ordinance NCOIC through his leadership and high standards for his Marines.
Under his instruction and supervision, the squadron safely expended 380,000 pounds of explosive munitions.
Another example of aviation excellence highlighted during the banquet was Capt. G.J. Pawson, Marine Aviator of the Year.
Pawson distinguished himself as aviator of the year on September 8, 2004, while flying with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
He saved the lives of his crew during an enemy action when his CH-46E Sea Knight was critically damaged by enemy fire. Pawson landed the aircraft with a single working engine, under low light level conditions in a desert environment virtually by feel alone, read his warrant.
The Alfred A. Cunningham Marine Aviator of the Year Award was named for the Marine Corps first aviator, and was received first by astronaut Lt. Col. John H. Glenn Jr. in 1962.
In all, 26 awards were handed out by Gen. William L. Nyland, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and the keynote speaker for the evening.
The symposium also hosted many other social events throughout the week including a 5-kilometer run, golf tournament and several receptions, all designed to create a social atmosphere between longtime veteran members and current active duty members.
War stories and old tattered patches were shared during the Flight Jacket Happy Hour, a reception that encouraged attendees to wear their flight jackets. Jackets from as far back as World War II mixed with jackets that still smelled new.
Ross McGregor, a longtime member of MCAA didn’t have a flight jacket to wear at the event, but he did wear his dog tag from World War II on a gold chain. He wanted to share the history with young Marines and show them where their roots come from.
McGregor served as a transport aircraft crew chief from 1942 to 1968, participating in WWII, Korea and Vietnam before retiring as a Master Sgt.
“The camaraderie is very important at this event,” said McGregor. “The old guys get to share our stories with the young Marines and teach them about their history, and the young guys get to tell us about all the latest technology and how their keeping up the traditions.”