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Attending the MAWTS-1 Change of Command Ceremony, May 3, 2024

After returning to the United States from Australia on April 25, 2024, I re-buckled my seat belt for a flight to Yuma, Arizona, to have the privilege of witnessing the MAWTS-1 change of command ceremony.

While finishing our upcoming book on MAWTS-1, this seemed like a good way to round out our efforts.

The founder of MAWTS-1, Lt. Col. Howard DeCastro, had written to me suggesting the idea, and the commander of MAWTS-1, Col. Purcell, was kind enough to invite me.

This would give me the opportunity to meet some of the previous commanding officers of MAWTS-1, meet the three 3-star USMC generals who attended the ceremony and also meet the new commander of MAWTS-1.

The day before the ceremony, I had the opportunity to interview two of the first commanding officers, Lt. Col. DeCastro and Lt. Gen. Barry Knutson. In the afternoon I was able to interview the outgoing commander, Colonel Purcell, and the incoming commander, Colonel Joshua Smith.

What was amazing about the two sets of interviews is how they were linked in time.

The first and eighth COs of MAWTS focused on the approach they developed for innovation, which was to bring technology into con-ops rather than allowing technology to exist outside of the organizational changes required to adopt relevant technologies.

It was the warfighters who drove the innovation in terms of real improvements in warfighting, not some contractor or acquisition official shoving the technology down their throats.

Two hours later I had the same conversation with Purcell and Smith.

It was about technology that didn’t exist at the time DeCastro and Knutson were in charge, but it was the same mentality and drive for fighting excellence that we discussed.

And I want to close with just one thought: don’t change course.

The pursuit of warfare excellence in the operational force is not a nice thing to have; it is what we need if our country continues to field a war force that is respected by the world, allies and adversaries alike.

Well, I’m not a Marine, but it’s hard not to listen to the USMC anthem during the ceremony and not say Semper Fidelis.