MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Lieutenant Col. James W. Frey turned over command of Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3 to Lt. Col. Timothy G. Burton during a change of command ceremony at the Combat Center’s Lance Cpl. Torrey L. Gray Field June 17, where Frey was also awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his efforts.
The new commanding officer’s reputation has helped make him a great addition to the team already, even at the very beginning of his tour, said Sgt. Maj. Rufino Mendez Jr., the squadron’s sergeant major and a native of Newark, N.J.
“Change is good,” Mendez said. “I always look forward to change, and Lt. Col. Burton is a professional. We will have the same relationship [as with Frey], if not better.” The commanding officer who took the helm of the newly-created squadron, which deployed simultaneously in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom, was a great part of the team, Mendez said.
“Seeing him leave was a sad moment,” Mendez said. “We developed a bond of friendship. We started with nothing and got the squadron to where it is today. He will be missed.”
Frey bid farewell to the Marines and sailors of the squadron and thanked them for all the hard work they put in downrange.
“It’s been an absolute honor,” said Frey, from Ridgebury, Pa. “The performance of the Marines from the deployment validated all that hard work from the 13 months prior to the deployent.”
Frey’s next assignment will be as a student at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. Burton, the incoming commander, who left Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323 from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., said he looks forward to his opportunity to lead the squadron.
“It’s an honor and a challenge to not lose any progress that [Lt. Col.] Frey and VMU-3 have made in two years, and build on that,” said the Belmont, Miss., native. Burton said he expects this next assignment to be challenging and that he is humbled and will work hard to be worthy of the Marines he leads. The young squadron is going to be an impressive force to take command.
“VMU-3 is a squadron of fires,” he said. “My job is to make sure the enemy has access to all fires the [Marine Air Ground Task Force] has to offer.
“I spent most of spring in commander’s courses,” said Burton, who was promoted to his present rank September 2009. “I also spent time and studied about their mission and what UAVs do on the battlefield, because this is my first time in a UAV squadron.”
Burton said he and his family are looking forward to spending time in the desert, as well as getting to know the Marines and sailors of VMU-3.