MAWTS -1: Remarks in 2019

By Howard DeCastro, LtCol USMC, (Ret.)

I was invited by Colonel Kelvin Gallman to be the guest of honor at the MAWTS-1 Marine Corps Ball in 2019. An edited version of the speech which I gave follows:

During the Vietnam conflict, Marine Air conducted effective deep strikes on enemy targets, and transport and close air support for our Marines on the ground. However, we made a lot of mistakes and our use of airpower was well short of optimum.

We didn’t have a consistent strategy, we lacked up-to-date targeting intelligence, we rarely took full advantage of the capabilities that come with skillful integration of forces, and our ability to effectively support our Marines on the ground was often hampered by poor communication, by the Ground Commander’s lack of knowledge of our capability, and sometimes even by a lack of trust.

The result was, more Marines died in the air and on the battlefield than would have if we had done a better job.

Project 19 highlighted some of the problems and provided the opportunity to improve.With lots of thought and hard work by a number of Marines at Headquarters and in the Fleet Marine Force, MAWTS -1 was born more than 41 years ago.

The goal was to improve the effectiveness of Marine Air and provide the best possible support to our Marines on the ground.  To do that we knew it was important that every aviator have a clear understanding of their own capability and the capabilities of other aviation elements, and to learn how to best integrate those capabilities to support our combat troops.

In June 1978 we started with 35 MAWTS Instructors and a support staff of 15 Marines.  You have increased in size, now up to 249 staff, one short of five times our original number.

More importantly, you have grown dramatically in capability to become the finest aviation training and tactics development organization in the world. There is no doubt that you are exceeding the expectations that were set when MAWTS was established.

The addition of 401 provided another vital and dramatic improvement.

After General Amos retired as Commandant, he and I had a chance to talk. He told me that MAWTS literally saved Marine Corps Aviation. I suspect that was an exaggeration, but, without question, MAWTS has dramatically improved Marine Aviation and our working relationship with the Ground Forces.

And that means fewer Marines will die on the battle field.

The challenge for us 41 years ago, and the challenge for you today, is to continually improve. To improve takes an understanding of enemy capabilities and projecting their future capabilities so we can develop the hardware, software, tactics, and our own capabilities that keep us always in the lead.

Every one of you should be proud to have earned the right to be assigned to MAWTS, and you should be proud of what you are accomplishing.

I was going to give you a motivational speech, but then I realized you are just like the original members of MAWTS-1.

You are completely self-motivated, are never satisfied with the status quo, and you will keep thinking, keep communicating, keep innovating, and keep pushing each other to make Marine Air and the Marine Air Ground Team better every day.  That is who you are, and you know how important it is to keep getting better.

You know that the Marines on the ground trust you and are counting on you.

For everything you have done and all you do, I thank you!

Happy Birthday Marines – Semper Fidelis