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Fleet Readiness Center East Commanding Officer Col. Clarence T. Harper III speaks during the 75th anniversary ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C. Dec. 14, 2018. The guest speaker was Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder who serves as the Deputy Commandant for Marine Corps Aviation.

FRC East celebrates 75th anniversary

A golden era of maintenance, repair and overhaul is in the books as Fleet Readiness Center East celebrated its 75th anniversary Dec. 14.

The formal ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point paid tribute to the work and workforce that has sustained the organization for more than seven decades.

“Celebrations like this are important, because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our history and where we’ve come from,” said Col. Clarence T. Harper III, commanding officer of FRC East. “It’s also a good time to look into the future and dream about all of the possibilities that could come our way.”

Harper briefly reviewed the depot’s history that dates back to Dec. 16, 1943 when the organization started as the Assembly and Repair Department supporting Marine aviation needs. It was redesignated five times, and evolved to overhaul and repair to rework to an aviation depot.

“The types of aircraft and engines and components we’ve worked on has changed as the fleet has changed and we’ve had to make some adjustments,” he said.

Throughout the existence of the organization, it has repaired at least 35 types of aircraft that were flown in various wars and conflicts which include World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm/Shield.

As the organization progressed through the decades it went through expansion of its facilities, upgrades of its technology, restructuring of the organization, changes and additions to its workload and growth of its workforce.

And though there were many changes, the workforce stayed resilient in its attention and dedication to the mission, Harper noted.

“Our focus has always remained the same,” he said, “to produce a quality product, on-time or as close to on time as we can be and within cost.”

Harper gave immense credit and praise to the workforce for the organization’s ability to endure for three quarters of a century.

 “Amazing people, with hearts of champions,” he said. “They come to work every day wanting to do the right thing. …  the dedication of our employees accomplishing the mission has never changed.”

And because the organization has been headquartered in Eastern North Carolina for 75 years, he made mention of the numerous generations of local residents who have been employed at the depot.

“Generations of Eastern North Carolinians have served in the defense of the nation by providing their entire adult working lives to this organization.”

Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, the event’s guest speaker, spoke of the value the FRC lends to Marine Corps mission success and how leaders on Capitol Hill are more sensitive to the importance of funding the Navy activities.

Rudder also expressed gratitude to the workforce for its efforts in supporting Marines in past and present operations.

“We talk about fighting the nation’s wars, or being out there for present operations or working with our allies and partners. “We don’t do it without you. … It doesn’t happen without a skilled workforce.”

Harper took a moment to recognize former commanding officers and the longest current serving and newest employees who were also in attendance to celebrate the occasion. Former COs were retired Marine Col. Jerry Gartman, Col. Gilda Jackson, Col. John Gumbel and Col. Blaine Spratlin. Gene Gilikin was the longest serving employee of 44 years and newly hired David Jones. Harper also gave a greeting to the various local supporters and community partners present at the event.

The organization, at Cherry Point, has grown from the 500,00-square-foot building and 36-member payroll to the largest industrial and technical services employer in Eastern North Carolina. FRC East comprises 119 buildings, covering 2.1 million square feet, spanning over 107 acres, facility replacement estimated, value of $1.3 billion. It has detachments at Beaufort, South Carolina, Marine Corps Air Station New River Station and Joint Reserve Base Dix-Lakehurst. The payroll exceeds $354 million, as it employs 4,200 employees from surrounding counties which includes Craven, Carteret, Jones, Pamlico, Onslow and Beaufort.

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