MARINE CORPS AIR STATION BEAUFORT, SC -- Many people spend their lives trying to build a legacy that will provide them a place in the history books. Colonel Harmon A. Stockwell has found that place in the streets of Fightertown.
As the Air Station’s commanding officer for the past three years, Stockwell has played an active role in implementing several positive changes, which include giving the Air Station a new look.
The most visible footprint that Stockwell will leave behind is the state of the Air Station, according to Dave Wilson, the business manager for Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
“Although there are still more projects to improve the Air Station, it’s in the best condition ever,” Wilson said. “The care and the maintenance of the Air Station are at a all-time high.”
Stockwell first arrived aboard the Air Station in 1982 as a radar intercept officer attached to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115.
“I served with him when we were both with VMFA-115, and as his executive officer here,” Wilson said. “He was always a good man to work for. He was a conscientious leader and careful to set a good example for the people that worked with him.”
Stockwell has had a major influence on many of the new facilities that were planned, under design or in construction when he took command, according to William Snead, the Air Station S-4 officer.
“Colonel Stockwell has had a unique opportunity to positively affect the Air Station in more ways than most COs,” Snead said. “This is because of the high impact programs that have been implemented and the critical infrastructure that has been constructed during the past three years."
New aircraft static displays, renovations in four squadron hangars, a new pistol range, two test facilities and improvements to all the barracks are some of the changes that can be credited to Stockwell, according to Snead.
“He also had a hand in the new exchange, the child care centers on the Air Station and Laurel Bay, a new simulator facility and an improved corrosion control facility,” Snead said.
The most notable improvements that can be credited to Stockwell are the renovations to the Headquarters Building and the street signs aboard the Air Station, according to Snead.
“The station infrastructure has improved significantly with his attention and focus,” Snead said. “I hear folks say all the time that this place ‘looks like an Air Force Base.’ I don’t know of any higher compliment that could be paid to the person responsible for the operation and maintenance of a Marine Corps facility.”
For Stockwell, serving as the Air Station commanding officer has been one of his best experiences.
“Serving here is without a doubt the high point of my career,” Stockwell said. “It’s about the people, and we have great people working here.”
Although Stockwell was instrumental in transforming the Air Station, he credits the success to the people who work for him.
“It’s not about me, it’s the people and the work they have accomplished these past three years,” Stockwell said. “My staff does great things.”
Stockwell and his staff have improved the quality of the Air Station, but also had an active role in strengthening Fightertown’s bond with the community, according to Wilson.
“He was always very active in representing the Air Station in the community,” Wilson said. “He was also constantly trying to strengthen that relationship and protect the community.”
An important ability that Stockwell displayed was his capability to tell the stories of the Marines and Sailors and convey to the local community how important their support was, according to Master Sgt. Terence Peck, the Air Station public affairs chief.
“Colonel Stockwell has been one of the most accessible commanding officers that I have known toward the local media,” Peck said. “He always made himself available, which was a key factor to communicating a positive message to the local community. Because of his actions, I believe people were shown how the Marines and Sailors at the Air Station are good neighbors and can work hand-in-hand with the local community to improve quality of life.”
Stockwell worked on the connection between the Air Station and the community by taking an active role in joint land use studies, and was proactive in establishing a community plans and liaison office, according to Wilson.
“His efforts in encroachment mitigation have made the Air Station a model program for the Marine Corps,” Wilson said. “He tried to create a vision other than maintaining status quo.”
While Stockwell was here, Congress approved a bill that let the Department of Defense, state and local governments and non-government organizations, partner to purchase buffer and conservation land, according to Bruce Jackson, the deputy officer for the community plans and liaison office for the Air Station.
“Colonel Stockwell recognized this early and authorized our office to get together with Beaufort County Rural and Critical Lands Board and buy buffer land around the Air Station,” Jackson said. “We were the first in the DoD to practice this.”
His approach to Base Realignment and Closure and dedication to posturing the Air Station for future missions has been instrumental to the installation’s success, according to Wilson.
When Stockwell first arrived aboard the Air Station, his primary vision was to support the future.
“I primarily wanted to make the Air Station ready for the future, like hosting joint strike fighter squadrons,” Stockwell said. “I think we did a great job in getting the Air Station prepared, it’s the right size and I think we are where we want to be.”
Stockwell has also been a role model to junior enlisted and commissioned officers who have served for him throughout his career, according to Wilson.
“He was a brother in combat and a great example as a Marine officer,” Wilson said.
Raised in a family of veterans, the military has always been in Stockwell’s heart. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1971, and then subsequentially transferred into the Marine Corps in 1975.
“When I came in Vietnam was still going on, so if I was going to go I wanted it to be with a premier force. So I transferred to the Marine Corps,” Stockwell said.
Stockwell has served his country for more than 34 years and will retire after passing the torch to Col. Robert Lanham, who will take command of the Air Station on Aug. 25.
“It is very meaningful to be part of the Air Station's history,” Stockwell said. “It is difficult to leave, because the Air Station became a baby or family I don't want to let go of.”
After retiring, Stockwell plans to stay in the area for the short term.
“For the time I will stay in the area and look for a job,” Stockwell said. “If I find a job somewhere else then I will move, but for now I’m just staying here.”