Marine air facility gets new name, bigger role


POSTED: Saturday, May 23, 2009

The aviation facility at the Marine base in Kaneohe Bay has a new name, which will mean a bigger presence in the Pacific and a few more aircraft, according to the Marine Corps.

Lt. Col. Michael Antonio, who has commanded the 220-member Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Facility since July, said the unit will return to the same status it had as Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Air Station in 1994.

The air station was decommissioned in 1994 when the Marine Corps consolidated command of all of its installations in Hawaii under Marine Corps Base Hawaii, headquartered at Kaneohe Bay.

The re-designation became official yesterday along with the naming of the facility's 7,771-foot runway after retired Marine Maj. Gen. Marion Carl, a World War II ace who earned two Navy Crosses in the Battle of Midway and Guadalcanal. He finished World War II with 18 enemy kills.

Antonio, a C-20 Gulfstream jet pilot, envisions a slight increase in the number of sailors and Marines under his command because additional helicopter squadrons will be sent to Kaneohe from the mainland.

However, he does not believe there will be an increase in the number of aviation operations, which average about 65,000 annually.

“;That's because even with an increase in the number of aircraft,”; Antonio said, “;many of these units will be deployed a lot.”;

The air station will continue to provide logistical support, air traffic control and aircraft search-and- rescue operations for the Windward Oahu Marine base, Antonio said.

It will become the ninth air station in the Marine Corps.

Currently, Antonio's unit supports 18 P-3 Orion subhunter propeller-driven aircraft and 60 SH-60 Seahawk and CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters, along with Air Force C-17 Globemaster and C-5 Galaxy jet cargo planes and F-18 Hornet fighter jets that stop in the islands for training.

Antonio said that within the next eight years, his unit will get a helicopter medium-light attack squadron with 27 UH-1 Huey and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters.