MCAS BEAUFORT, S.C. -- Col. Frank N. Latt relinquished command of Marine Aircraft Group 31 to Col. Matthew H. Phares during a change of command ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort July 19.
The commanding general of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, Brig. Gen. Karsten S. Heckl, and the commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Col. Timothy Miller, attended the ceremony along with other squadron commanders aboard the air station.
“This group under this leadership has proven themselves time and time again,” Heckl said. “Their dedication to mission accomplishment is nothing short of incredible and speaks volumes about Col. Latt’s guidance.”
Latt was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer in May 1992 via the Purdue University Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps where he earned his bachelors in Civil Engineering. He completed his initial F/A-18 training with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101, also
known as the Sharpshooters, in 1996.
Latt’s operational assignments include Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (All Weather) 533 from 1997-2000, aboard the USS Enterprise in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and VMFA-251 from 2008-2009 serving as the executive officer. Prior to assuming command of MAG-31, Latt was the commanding officer of VMFA-312 from 2010 to 2011, and commanding officer of Headquarters Squadron, MAG- 31 from 2011
Latt’s personal decorations include the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a gold star, and the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat “V”.
“This unit is a winning team and I am thankful that I had the privilege of leading you all,” Latt said. “I couldn’t have asked to work around a better group of Marines and Sailors during my tenure here. As difficult as leaving may be, I couldn’t be happier handing the reigns over to family.”
Phares commissioned in 1993 as a naval aviator. Following his designation as an F/A-18 pilot, he was assigned to VMFA-251. While with VMFA-251 he completed two carrier deployments. Once in support of Operation Southern Watch in Iraq and again in Afghanistan to support Operation Enduring Freedom.
Phares’ personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal with a Combat “V”, Navy Achievement Medal and the Combat Action Ribbon.
“This is my fourth tour with MAG-31,” Phares said. “It almost feels as if I am coming home. I look forward to working with each and every one of the Marines and Sailors of the MAG and seeing what heights we can achieve. Semper Fidelis and God bless.”