MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, (Aug. 23, 2019) -- U.S. Marine Corps Col. Richard Fuerst, the offgoing MCAS Iwakuni commanding officer, relinquished command to Col. Lance Lewis, the MCAS Iwakuni commanding officer, during a ceremony held at MCAS Iwakuni, Aug. 22, 2019.
The ceremony took place in one of the air station’s hangars in front of, MCAS Iwakuni residents, Japanese employees, service members, and Japanese and American news reporters from 15 different media outlets.
Fuerst took command of MCAS Iwakuni in July of 2016 and oversaw major transformations to the base. A few examples of these transformations were: a satellite housing facility on the nearby Atago mountain, a new medical facility, the largest Marine Corps Exchange in the Marine Corps, and an expansion of the flight line into the Seto Inland Sea.
Fuerst welcomed the Sailors of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 to the air station as they transferred their homeport from Naval Air Facility Atsugi to Iwakuni. With the addition of CVW-5 and the existing Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Fleet Air Wing 31, the air station became a truly bilateral, joint facility.
“To sum it up in one word I would say change was the big thing that happened here,” said Fuerst. “Certainly, Col. Boucher handed me an air station that was performing very, very well. But a lot of change was about to happen. On my watch over the last three years we saw the population increase by about 3,500 people. CVW-5 arrived, the F-35 and the E-2D and just a lot of change occurred while I was here. It’s been very fun and exciting, frustrating at times, but it has gone well thanks to the Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, U.S. civil service (employees) and Japanese nationals that support the base.”
Fuerst will go on to serve as the director of operations for Marine Corps Installations Command.
Lewis spoke to all those in attendance after officially taking charge of the air station.
“There is 7 billion dollars into this air station,” said Lewis. “Make no mistake ladies and gentleman, this is the most important installation in all of the Department of Defense and certainly the newest. Take a look outside right there, see the aircraft and the buildings. The building that you’re in right now, all brand new. We have jets, brick and mortar and it’s a lot of combat capability. As we all know jets, brick and mortar do not win wars. It’s people who win wars. To the Marines, Sailors, soldiers, our civilians and Japanese partners that bring the combat power of this air station together- I am humbled and honored to be your commanding officer.”
This is not Lewis’s first time in Japan, or even his first time in Iwakuni. He previously served as the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron commanding officer from 2012 to 2014 and mentioned during the ceremony that his move to Iwakuni was somewhat of a homecoming.
Lewis came to MCAS Iwakuni from the United Kingdom’s (UK) Permanent Joint Headquarters as the lead planner for UK military activity in the Middle East.
His personal decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with gold star, the Air Medal-Air Heroic (with star and Combat V), the Air Medal-Strike Flight (with numeral eight), the Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medal (with gold star and Combat V), the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with gold star and Combat V), and the Combat Action Ribbon. Lewis has flown over 3,400 total mishap free flight hours with over 2,800 in the A-D variations of the F/A-18.