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Lt. Col. Benedict G. Buerke relinquishes command of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 to Lt. Col. Steven B. Bowden aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 10. During the ceremony, Buerke was awarded the Bronze Star for his service as the commanding officer of the Checkerboards.

Photo by Cpl. Terry Haynes III

Checkerboards welcome new commander

17 Aug 2018 | Cpl. Terry Haynes III Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort

Lt Col. Benedict G. Buerke relinquished command of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 312 to Lt. Col. Steven B. Bowden aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug.10.

The commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Col. Timothy Miller, along with the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group-31, Col. Matthew Phares, attended the ceremony. “There are two important reasons why we stop training for a change of command,”
Phares said. “First, we must recognize the significance of this transfer of command, and secondly, we must recognize what the Marines under this command have accomplished.”

Buerke took command of VMFA-312 in February 2017. He led the squadron on work-ups aboard MCAS Beaufort and Naval Air Station Fallon; eventually leading the squadron on a successful deployment aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-271). Buerke was awarded the Bronze Star during the ceremony for his service while leading the squadron.

“It has been an honor serving with each and every one of you,” Buerke said. “We represent not just one unit, but an entire Marine Aircraft Group. The success we have enjoyed is because we worked so well
together in spite of our differences and that’s what truly sets us apart.”

Bowden attended Officer Candidate School during the summer of 1998 and commissioned upon graduation. After receiving his wings in December of 2001, he reported to VMFAT-101 where completed F/A-18 training in May 2003.

In June 2003, Bowden reported for duty at MAG-11 and joined VMFA-
323. While at VMFA-323, he received qualifications as a division lead,
air combat tactics instructor and strike fighter tactics instructor.

While with VMFA-323, he deployed twice aboard aircraft carriers in
support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Bowden’s personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal,
Air Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.

For VMFA-312’s mishap-free performance during all of 2017, they
were awarded the Marine Corps Aviation Association’s Pete Ross Aviation Safety Award. As only one of two carrier-borne F/A-18 squadrons left in the world, VMFA-312 will continue the grand tradition of carrier naval service and will conduct the “sundown” deployment of
the F/A-18 Hornet in 2021. A “sundown” deployment is when a squadron deploys a final time with their aircraft before transitioning to a
new one.

“I know I have some very big shoes to fill,” Bowden said. “I look forward to serving with each and every one of you. Working together, I
know we can overcome any obstacle that is in our path, Semper Fidelis
and Fight’s on.”

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