The commander of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, has been was relieved of command, making him at least the second leader in the aviation community commanding officer to be of a squadron fired so far this year.
Lt. Col. Armando Gonzalez was relieved on Thursday April 28 "due to loss of confidence," said Capt. Melanie Salinas, a spokeswoman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. The squadron’s former executive officer, Maj. Andrew Kano, is now serving as commanding officer.
Salinas declined to elaborate on what prompted Gonzalez's to be relieved of command removal, but Marine Corps Times has learned that a command climate survey prompted an investigation into Gonzalez that determined he allegedly created such a hostile work environment that three officers under his command decided to leave the Marine Corps. A civilian in his charge also quit, according to an official familiar with the case.
He took over as commanding officer of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 in June 2014. The squadron deployed to the Middle East last year with the Marine Corps' crisis response unit for U.S. Central Command.
Gonzalez enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1987 and deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In 1996, hHe was selected for the Meritorious Commissioning Program in 1996 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant that April, according to his official biography.
He deployed to Afghanistan in December 2001 with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and later supported Operation Anaconda, the legendary battle on March 4, 2002, in Gardez, Afghanistan.
In July 2006, Gonzalez served with the task force that oversaw the evacuation of nearly 15,000 U.S. citizens from Lebanon. He was assigned to the 3rd MAW the following year and subsequently deployed to Anbar province, Iraq, and Helmand province, Afghanistan.
His other assignments include serving as senior adviser to the Colombian marines and working in Headquarters Marine Corps’ strategy and plans division at Plans, Policies and Operations. His military awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and the Navy and Marine Achievement Medal.
In January, the commander of the Hawaii-based Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463 was fired three days before two CH-53E Super Stallions crashed off Oahu, killing 12 Marines. Senior officials determined that the CO had failed to keep the squadron operating at acceptable standards. A Marine familiar with what happened told Marine Corps Times that the squadron had not been flying enough before the commander was fired.
The Marine Corps' aviation problems have mounted this year with budget cuts causing many of the service's planes and helicopters to be grounded due to a lack of spare parts and other maintenance issues.
Top he service’s top leaders have said that units not scheduled to deploy have the hardest time getting the parts and flight hours they need.
Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the name of the support squadron.