MCAS BEAUFORT --
Marines and sailors gathered for Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 533’s change of command ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, March 11.
During the ceremony VMFA(AW)-533, also known as the Hawks, bid farewell to Lt. Col. Branden G. Bailey as he relinquished command of the squadron to Lt. Col. Kevin T. O’Rourke.
“I’m honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to be their commanding officer,” said Bailey. “The hawks are ready to go and they will not let you down.”
Under Bailey’s command, the Marines and sailors of VMFA(AW)-533 were awarded the Robert M. Hanson award for their excellence as the best F/A- 18 Hornet squadron in the Marine Corps for 2012,the II Marine Expeditionary Force Chesty Puller Award for professional achievement and superior performance and the Chief of Naval Operations Aviation Safety award in 2012.
“You grabbed a great squadron and made it better,” said Col. Michael Cederholm, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 31. “You’ve done a fantastic job, you’re tenure here will go down as one of the greatest training periods in hawks history.”
His primary concern has always been what is right for the young men and women of the squadron and what’s right for the institution, said Cederholm.
Bailey began command of VMFA(AW)-533 in November 2011. Bailey held multiple billets during three assignments to the squadron, serving as squadrons’ logistics officer, pilot training officer, assistant aircraft maintenance officer, aircraft maintenance officer and executive officer.
“I expect great things from [VMFA(AW)-533], job well done,” said Bailey, as he addressed the Marines and sailors of the squadron.
As the incoming commanding officer, O’Rourke will command the squadron as they prepare for a deployment later this month.
“I’m stepping into a well-oiled machine and I’m honored and humbled to be here,” said O’Rourke. “We’re going to keep our focus on our mission, our Marines and our families.”
VMFA(AW)-533 is scheduled to deploy later this month to the Western Pacific in support of the Unit Deployment Program to increase forward presence in the area and participate in theater security cooperation activities with regional allies.
“The Hawks are the place to be,” said O’Rourke. “They are the finest squadron in the MAG and the finest squadron in the Marine Corps.”