For the first time Friday, Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 12 addressed a captain as their leader.

The new commanding officer still wears the full bird insignia: Navy Capt. David B. Emich took command of the group at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni. He is the first Navy aviator to lead a Marine aviation group, a position usually held by Marine colonels — the same rank as Navy captain.

The unit should be familiar with its new Navy commander: Emich has been the group’s executive officer for 10 months.

The change signals a step in the Navy’s commitment to integrate its air assets, a plan created to save money and increase the two services’ flexibility, according to Navy reports. The Navy and Marines fly many of the same aircraft, including Super Hornets, so the Navy plans to bring the two services’ air units into closer cooperation.

A squadron of Navy F-18 Super Hornets already deploys to the aircraft group, which includes several squadrons that visit for six-month rotations. MAG-12 falls under the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, part of the III Marine Expeditionary Force based on Okinawa.

Emich, commissioned in 1982, commanded Strike Fighter Squadron 27, the Royal Maces, at Naval Air Facility Atsugi in 2001, deploying with Carrier Air Wing 5 aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. He replaces Col. Howard F. Barker, who will become the assistant wing commander of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing based in Miramar, Calif.

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