Marine with Island connection retires after 30 years

Courtesy photo Col. James F. Harp, USMC, retired.

For the Islander

Col. James “Jim” F. Harp recently retired from the United States Marine Corps after serving 30 years. His retirement ceremony was held on July 23, 2021 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.

The Harp family has lived in Avalon for many years. Jim’s father Rick served as L.A. County Fire captain for 19 years, has been a member of Avalon Lions Club for 38 years, was a member of the Search and Rescue Team, and served on the Conservancy Board for seven years. Jim’s mother, Wendy, worked as an R.N. at the hospital for 12 years, was on the Museum Board for 10 years, is active in Las Caballeras and Catalina Island Saddle Club, and is a member of the Chimes Tower Foundation Board.

As for Col. Harp himself, he was commissioned through the Marine Corps Officer Candidate’s Course in December 1991. Following training at The Basic School in Quantico, VA, he attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida, and received his Aviator’s wings in April 1994.

After training in the CH-53E helicopter at HMT-302 in Tustin, he served in HMH-465 where he was promoted to Captain, completed two unit deployments to Okinawa, one Marine Expeditionary Unit deployment with HMM-165 (REIN), and participated in two Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force exercises (Korea), exercises IRON MAGIC (UAE) and RED REEF (Saudi Arabia), and OPERATION STABILIZE (East Timor).

From June 2000 to November 2003, he served in Marine Aviation Weapons & Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) as a CH-53D/E Weapons and Tactics Instructor, Aviation Development, Tactics, and Evaluation (ADT&E) Aviation Assault Support Specialist and Aircraft Survivability Equipment Subject Matter Expert, was promoted to Major, and deployed as an augment to Marine Aircraft Group 16 (MAG-16), for OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM I (OIF I).

From November 2003 to December 2004, he served in MAG-16, as Future Operations Officer and Assistant Operations Officer during their deployment in support of OIF II to replace the Army’s Third Infantry Division (aviation element) in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Following redeployment, he was reassigned to HMH- 466, where he served as the Operations Officer, deploying to Iraq a third time in support of OIF 04-06.2.

From June 2006 to April 2008, he served at Headquarters Marine Corps Department of Aviation in the Weapons Systems Requirements Branch (APW), as the Heavy Helicopter Requirements Officer for the CH-53D, CH-53E, and CH-53K helicopter programs, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

From September 2008 to April 2010, he commanded HMH-366, reactivating the unit as the Marine Corps’ 7th active duty CH-53E squadron, and achieved Full Operational Capability (FOC) in 2008 with the deployment of squadron detachments to Iraq and Africa. Following Command, he attended the United States Army War College, in Carlisle, PA, where he earned a master’s degree in Strategic Studies.

From March 2012 to March 2013 he deployed to Wardak Province, Afghanistan with the Afghanistan/Pakistan Hands program, where he served under Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan as a senior liaison to Afghan provincial leadership, for Special Forces conducting Village Stability Operations.

In March 2013, he reported to II Marine Expeditionary Force, where he was promoted to Colonel and served as the G-3 – Current Operations Officer until August 2015. He was then transferred to Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Training Command, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, where he served as the Chief of Staff until receiving orders to Okinawa, Japan in May of 2017. From June 2017 to June 2019, Harp commanded Marine Aircraft Group-36 aboard MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, and served as the MAGTF Commander for Exercise NORTHERN VIPER, the Aviation Combat Element Commander for exercises COBRA GOLD (Thailand) and BLUE CHROMITE (Okinawa), oversaw ten UDP rotations, and supported two 31st MEU deployments, and multiple bilateral/multi-lateral training exercises and engagements in South Korea, Thailand, Okinawa, mainland Japan, Australia, and the Philippines.

Following O-6 Command, Harp served as Chief of Staff, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from June 2019 to June 2020, and transferred to 3d Marine Aircraft Wing in June 2020, where he served as Assistant Wing Commander. Col. Harp is a graduate of the University of Redlands (BA), the Army War College (Masters), Amphibious Warfare School, Command and Staff College, Airlift Load-Planner’s Course, Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course, Commander’s Course, Senior Officer’s Legal Course, Aviation Commander’s Safety Course, and is DLS Phase I in Dari/Farsi. His personal decorations include: the Legion of Merit (2 stars), Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (1 star), Air Medal (6 strike/flight awards), Navy Commendation Medal (4 stars) & Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal (1 star), and the Combat Action Ribbon.

Marine with Island connection retires after 30 years