DONALD E. DAVIS SQUADRON REUNION 2019, AVIATION LOGISTICS MARINES
At our most recent Don Davis Squadron reunion we were privileged to visit the Blue Angels squadron operating spaces. Additionally, we all got to see the iconic “Fat Albert.” Recent article (paraphrased below) provides some interesting details regarding our beloved partner of the team. We were all able to participate in viewing some of the final days of Albert’s history!
The Navy Flight Demonstration Team’s beloved C-130T cargo plane (BuNo 164763), better known by its Fat Albert nickname, has taken to the skies for the last time. The iconic blue, white, and gold Hercules transport was flown from the Blue Angels’ home base at NAS Pensacola in Florida to Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth in Texas where it will spend the rest of its life as a ground training aid.
Since this particular airframe took over the role of Fat Albert in 2002, it has flown over 30,000 hours in support of the Blue Angels mission and performed in front of millions of people at air show locations all over the world. It was also the last Navy or Marine C-130s to execute a jet-assisted takeoff—a highlight of the Blue Angels’ shows up until 2009 when surplus JATO bottle stocks finally ran out.
Fat Albert didn’t just move the team and its gear around from location to location, it also served as the high-profile unit’s on-demand airlift service, often shagging urgently needed spare parts and other items on short notice because ‘the show must go on.’ It even carried the bodies of fallen comrades home when disaster struck.
Marine Corps Aviation Association (MCAA) Don E. Davis Squadron held its 2019 annual reunion from the 21st-24th of March at the Grand hotel in Pensacola Florida; home of the Blue Angels. More than 100 members and guests of the Squadron toured, socialized and reminisced. We had the privilege to be supported by Major Shawn Hennessy, CO AMS-2, and the Marines of MATSG-23 through-out the event with transportation, technical support and a Color Guard as well as briefs from the Command on mission and school changes in the Aviation Logistics arena.
The reunion was packed with a full agenda starting with a Welcome Aboard reception. Members enjoyed a round of Golf, tour of the Blue Angels spaces, the N.A.S. Pensacola Aviation Museum, lunch at The Oaks and a sunset “Dolphin” cruise in the bay. The weekend concluded with a Banquet Saturday evening in The Grand ballroom. In addition to a full social program, business meetings were held with Squadron Officers and general membership to advance and promote MCAA objectives and the Marine Corps Aviation Logistics Community of Interest. They installed MGySgt (retired) Rob McCutcheon as their Communications Officer and elected MSgt (retired) Paul Cerkez to the Board of Directors. The business meeting concluded with ratification of the 2019 by-laws and discussions regarding next year’s reunion location.
The Executive Round table, which followed the business meeting, serves as the squadron’s active duty ASL interface. In attendance were active duty leadership from a number of key community of interest commands. Most notably, was LtGen (retired) Jon “Dog” Davis, past DCA and now Commander of the Marine Corps Aviation Association. During the Round table two presentations of significance were provided by Col Russ Blauw, HQMC ASL-1 and Col Ryan Goulette, CO MATSG-23. Col Blauw’s presentation provided highlights of the many readiness challenges and initiatives under way across Marine Corps and Naval Aviation. Col Goulette’s presentation provided an overview and the progress that has been made across the aviation logistics training environment. Both presenters asked that the Davis Squadron leadership provide insights and bring industry expertise to bear in assisting with a number of key obstacles facing their communities.
The reunion concluded on Saturday evening with a formal banquet at the hotel with the guest of honor, Deputy Commandant for Aviation LtGen (Stick) Rudder, highlighting the evening’s activities with a brief on Marine Aviation today and the future vision. LtGen Rudder provided an inspirational and targeted message to the community – emphasizing the value and influence of the logistics profession as a key enabler to combat successes as Marine Aviation moves ever forward with additional capabilities and the accompanying logistics challenges. In his message, he emphasized that Marine Aviation Logistics is now one of the principle metrics during acquisition and fielding to ensure battlefield success during the entire life cycle of an aviation asset. Marine Aviation Logistics, and the individual Marines who develop, refine and perform the tasks will continue to be a critical driver to USMC success and help ensure maximum readiness for Marine Aviation within the air-ground task force; postured to address our nation’s challenges today, and those of the future, with confidence.
During the banquet, Aviation Logistics professional excellence was highlighted and celebrated. Active duty Aviation Logistics Instructors who made significant, impactful and measurable contributions to Marine aviation logistics during 2018 were recognized; GySgt (MSgt (sel)) Juan Hernandez, EAF Instructor and SSgt William Liesenfelder, ATI Instructor both of AMS-1, MATSG-23 were awarded for innovation and excellence. Also noteworthy, a Sustained Superior Achievement Award was presented to Rick Owen for his decades of dedicated service to the squadron, its families and his important contributions to the advancement of aviation logistics interests. The Recruiter of the Year went to Active Duty LtCol Bill Slack, 2d MAW ALD-C. The oldest Marine present was James Garner, (Col, Ret) at 97 years young! Special recognition went to the corporate sponsors, Lockheed Martin, Andromeda Technologies Inc and Mustang Services. The banquet concluded with both a silent and live auction provided by the generous support of it’s members contributing immensely to the scholarship fund!
Looking ahead, the squadron continues to vigorously advance its principled purpose: Family support with the upcoming award of “Pete Freeman Scholarship,” and participation with active duty Marines from all levels during selected events.