MCAS Cherry Point in new hands

As if to show respect, the menacing rain held back a little toward the end of a change of command ceremony Friday morning at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point as retired Col. Mikel R. Huber said relinquished command of the air station. to Col. Brendan C. Burks.

The change of command is a military tradition representing the formal transfer of responsibility and authority from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander.

Huber also retired at the ceremony after 29 years of service. Burks, an Alabama native, last served as chief of global force management, plans division and U.S. European Command, according to a statement from MCAS Communication Strategy and Operations.

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Huber, a graduate of the Naval Academy, knew he wanted to fly since he was a child. His favorite plane is the AV-8B Harrier. His uniform is unique in that he wears two sets of wings – on top are the golden Naval Aviator wings and below are the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Officer’s wings. He said he earned this set of wings when he was the commander of VMU-2 (Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2).

The Colonel said he decided to join the Marines over the Navy and any other service because of its unique structure and mission.

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“While at the Naval Academy, I had the opportunity to rub shoulders with Marines for the first time in my life,” Huber said in an email. “I have always been impressed with the discipline and drive of the Marines I have encountered. I have truly enjoyed the missions performed by Marine Airmen.”

Huber was Cherry Point’s commanding officer before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and said the Marines and his command certainly did not stop because of the virus, but there were challenges. He also saw the base through Hurricane Florence’s reconstruction and facility upgrades; and hosted the award-winning MCAS Cherry Point 2021 airshow, which featured the Blue Angels.

A change of command ceremony was held at Cherry Point Friday morning where retired Col. Mikel R. Huber handed over command of the air station to Col. Brendan C. Burks.

“During COVID, the 2nd MAW (Second Marine Air Wing) didn’t stop training and didn’t stop deploying – in fact, they flew more during COVID than they did the previous years,” said Hubert. “FRCE (Fleet Readiness Center East) has not seen a decrease in its aircraft maintenance workload. Our Naval Health Clinic still had to ensure that our Marines and Sailors were medically ready to deploy when our nation asked. So as COVID ebbed and flowed, keeping the team focused and motivated to get the job done right, every day, was the challenge. But I have to tell you, the team of Marines, sailors and civilians here at Cherry Point rallied and pulled him out of the I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished despite the pandemic.

When asked what he thought were some of his personal goals and accomplishments, he said he stuck to the basics.

“To help Cherry Point continue its transformation into a 5th Generation Master Jet base. And I think we made huge strides while I was here,” he said.

Huber, who lives in New Bern, plans to stay in the area and says he hopes to continue flying in the next chapter of his life.

He thanked his family for supporting his sacrifices to succeed in the Navy.

“My family has been the foundation of my career. They have always supported me. Since my wife Alana was a career naval officer, we always had to work as a team. However, she always made sure I could answer the call throughout the process.

The Next Chapter of MCAS Cherry Point

Cherry Point will in the near future become home to six squadrons of F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, an example of the base growth Colonel Burks is about to continue.

“Our role here will continue to operate (with what has been) defined,” Burks said. “We will define the next phase after these six squadrons. We will probably not see the fruits of our labor in some projects in the next three years. We will complete other projects and two to three predecessors in place.”

Burks said buildings and the completion of the hangar, one of which will hold two squadrons, will be goals for the next six months, along with the introduction of a new F-35 simulator.

Mayor Will Lewis shared his thoughts on the new Commanding Officer.

“Change of command is always a fun thing, but also a bittersweet thing,” Lewis said. “We have become great friends with Col. Huber. He has done a fantastic job leading the Marines here and running the base. The new Commanding Officer, Col. Burks, seems like a fantastic individual; we look forward to working with him at over the next three years and to continue all the good work we have done here.

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