Colonel Eric D. “TULSA” Purcell grew up in New Milford, Connecticut and spent a year abroad in Rancagua, Chile during high school. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and received his commission as a Second Lieutenant on 22 May 1998. Designated a Naval Aviator on 21 December 2000, he was assigned to fly the CH-53E “Super Stallion.”
Col Purcell’s three operational tours include command of HMH-463, “Pegasus,” from 2016-2017 where he served as the Aviation Combat Element Commander for Exercise Rim of the Pacific 2016 and supervised the deployment of three CH-53 detachments in support of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). His squadron was recognized as the 2017 Marine Corps Aviation Association Heavy Helicopter Squadron of the Year.
From 2010-2013 as a major, he was assigned to HMH-361, “The Flying Tigers,” and twice deployed to Afghanistan serving as the Operations Officer and the Maintenance Officer. HMH-361 was recognized by the Secretary of Defense with the 2012 Department of Defense Maintenance Unit of the Year Award, small unit category, for his period of time as the Maintenance Officer.
As a company grade officer his first operational tour was with HMH-462, “The Heavy Haulers,” and HMM-163 Reinforced, “Evil Eyes”, from 2001-2006. During this tour he deployed three times. The first of which was in support of the Unit Deployment Program to Okinawa, Japan where he participated in exercises throughout the Northern Marianas, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan. His second deployment was in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM from Jan 2003 – Oct 2003. His third deployment was as the CH-53E Weapons and Tactics Instructor on the 13th MEU. During this deployment he participated in humanitarian assistance operations in the Philippines, training in Australia, Djibouti, Egypt, and combat operations in Iraq.
Col Purcell’s staff and supporting establishment tours include two tours at Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1). During his first tour, 2006-2009, he served as the CH-53 Division Head and the Subject Matter Expert on Personnel Recovery and Assault Support Aircraft Survivability Equipment. While at MAWTS-1 he deployed in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and operations in the Horn of Africa. On 12 May 2022 Col Purcell will assume command of MAWTS-1. Col Purcell was twice assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps, Aviation. Additionally, in 2018 Col Purcell served as the Deputy G-9 Marine Forces Pacific.
Col Purcell’s academic billets include attending La Escuela Superior de Guerra Conjunta in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he was the honor graduate of foreign students. He also served as the Commandant of the Marine Corps Fellow at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
Colonel Purcell’s personal decorations include the Air Medal with golden numeral 1 and bronze numeral 20, Meritorious Service Medal with two gold stars, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with two gold stars, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, the NATO ISAF Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.