CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
A senior leader of Marines in southwestern Afghanistan has been selected for promotion to brigadier general, and will soon depart Camp Leatherneck for duties at the U.S. European Command.
Col. Russell A.C. Sanborn, the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) assistant wing commander, is slated to leave Afghanistan in mid-May for Stuttgart, Germany, to become the U.S European Command’s deputy operations officer.
“I didn’t know when I deployed out here that I would be leaving a couple months in. I’m excited to go, but it’s kind of bittersweet,” said Sanborn, a native of DeLand, Fla. “I love being in the fight out here because this is where the action is.”
The mission of the U.S. European Command is to plan, organize and oversee all U.S military exercises and operations in Europe.
“You might hear on the news that the United States is going to do an exercise in the Mediterranean with American and Italian ships,” said Sanborn. “EUCOM will organize that. We will work out tactics and procedures to figure out what capabilities the nations have to help the forces work together. We do the training so if we ever have to do it for real, we have the experience.”
Sanborn, an AV-8B Harrier pilot, was commissioned as an officer in the Marine Corps in May 1986, following his graduation from the University of Florida. Yet Sanborn said he didn’t plan on more than two decades of military service when his career began.
“I’ve been in 25 years, but I originally came in to do five,” said Sanborn. “That was my obligation to the Corps and that’s all I planned on doing. I love it though.
“I would love to get a map of the world and put a push pin in all of the different places I’ve spent the night,” said Sanborn. “When someone asks if I’ve been to Italy, Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan or Japan, I can say yes to all of those, and I love that.”
During his deployment to Afghanistan, Sanborn’s wife of more than two decades and five children remained in eastern North Carolina, but he said they will travel with him to Stuttgart for his tour there.
“They are always excited to move and make new friends and learn new things,” said Sanborn. “They know what it’s like to be the new kid, and they embrace it.”
Sanborn has accumulated more than 2,400 flight hours in the Harrier and deployed multiple times, including to the first Gulf War. On Feb. 9, 1991, while serving as a pilot in the Gulf War, Sanborn’s aircraft was shot down over southern Kuwait by a surface-to-air missile during a combat mission. He was captured and held as a prisoner of war until his release on March 6, 1991.His personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Strike Flight Award with Combat V, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
“I’m an operational kind of guy, and I love flying and being deployable,” said Sanborn. “Now I’m moving on to a non-deployable job. I won’t be flying as much anymore, and I won’t be around as many Marines. I’m going to miss it.”
With Sanborn preparing to depart Afghanistan, another AV-8B Harrier pilot, Col. Ben D. Hancock, is slated to replace him as the assistant wing commander. Hancock currently serves as the wing’s chief of staff.
“Col. Hancock is replacing me and I’m a big fan of his. I’ve known him since he was a captain,” said Sanborn, whose call sign is Bart. “We served together in Desert Storm back in 1991, and he’s just like me. He loves being around Marines. He’s going to do very well.”
“I am excited to take over for Bart, I’m more of an operational kind of guy so this billet suits me,” said Hancock. “I plan on continuing the great work Col. Sanborn has started.”
“2nd MAW (Fwd.) is effective and professional,” said Sanborn. “The real truth teller of our performance is not what we think of ourselves but more importantly, what the guys on the ground think of us. During my time here everything that I’ve heard from them is that we are doing a good job. They are saying we are spot on.”
Though Sanborn said his departure is bittersweet, he said he believes that the command will continue to grow and move forward throughout their scheduled yearlong deployment in southwestern Afghanistan.
“The Marine Corps is a living thing and it will keep moving forward, which is one of the things 2nd MAW (Fwd.) is best at,” said Sanborn.” I’m very proud of our Marines and sailors for being a part of our success and making everything we do possible.”
Connect with 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) throughout the deployment. Stay up to date with the latest 2nd MAW (Fwd.) news, photos and videos at http://www.facebook.com/2ndmawfwd.