Tucked in amid the tall pines of eastern North Carolina, just minutes away from the white sandy beaches of the Atlantic Coast, Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., has had a tremendous impact on the surrounding community and has played a major role in Marine Corps aviation since its beginning in 1944.
Although 1944 is celebrated as New River’s birthday, the Air Station’s roots go farther back. During 1941, the federal government purchased land where MCAS New River and the adjacent base are today for approximately $65,000. The next year, Capt. Barnett Robinson, of Marine Glider Squadron 71, surveyed the area around the New River. His investigation concluded the site would be suitable for land and seaplane operations.
The first squadron, Marine Bombing Squadron 612, arrived during 1943. The light bombers, known as the PBJ, resembled the Army’s B-25 Mitchell bomber. VMB-612 remained here until being deployed to the Pacific during World War II. Shortly after their departure, the Air Station was commissioned as Peterfield Point, named after a farmer whose tobacco field made up most of the land. The separation from Camp Lejeune in 1944 marked the Air Station’s birth.
After the war, Peterfield Point was reverted to caretaker status until being reopened during 1951 as Marine Corps Air Facility Peterfield Point and Camp Lejeune. One year later, it was renamed Marine Corps Air Facility New River, after the river that flows along its eastern border.
The first helicopters arrived in 1954 when Marine Aircraft Group 26 transitioned from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. The move began New River’s permanent role in the Marine Air-Ground concept.
During 1968, the Air Station changed its name once again to Marine Corps Air Station (Helicopter) New River. The change marked the Air Station’s development from a small training base into a major tactical Marine airfield. The “Helicopter” designation was dropped during 1985.
Today, close to 7,000 Marines and Sailors along with more than 1,000 civilians operate out of the two Marine Aircraft Groups and support squadrons aboard the 3,616-acre Air Station.
While MAG-26 arrived in 1954, MAG-29 was commissioned at New River in 1972. Together, they support six rotary-wing squadrons, six tiltrotor squadrons and two logistics squadrons. The groups are also home to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204, the Marine Corps’ premier MV-22 training squadron and Marine Helicopter Training Squadron 302.
During 1972, the airfield aboard New River was renamed McCutcheon Field after Gen. Keith B. McCutcheon, one of the fathers of Marine Corps aviation.
Both Marine Aircraft Groups work closely together and provide support for the ground forces of Marine Forces Atlantic.
Throughout the years, aircraft from the two groups have operated in hot spots around the world, including Cuba, Lebanon, Haiti, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Behind every good aircraft group is a good support squadron. The Marines of the Marine Aircraft Groups rely heavily on Marine Wing Support Squadron 272 for support of almost every exercise and mission.
The MWSS is composed of Marines and Sailors, from corpsmen to cooks, engineers to communicators, weather observers to heavy equipment operators. The squadron is vital to the accomplishment of the MAG mission.
Another part of the supporting cast in the overall operations of the Air Station is Marine Air Control Squadron 2, Air Traffic Control Detachment B. The detachment’s 70 Marines play a vital role in providing air traffic control for the Station as well as maintaining gear such as field ATC towers, radars and other equipment for deployments.
The nucleus of Air Station operations is Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. The Marines, Sailors and civilians in the squadron make up the backbone of the Air Station’s daily operations.
New River’s Battle Colors include the Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer, American Campaign streamer, World War II Victory streamer and National Defense Service streamer with two bronze stars.