OKINAWA, Japan -- Retired Brig. Gen. William A. Forney served honorably as the commanding general of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from 1992 to 1994. On Dec. 25, 2018, he passed away at the age of 76 in Panama City, Florida.
"I think every commander and every commanding general - no matter what branch of service or what unit they command - wants to leave their unit better than when they arrived," said Maj. Gen. Thomas D. Weidley, 1st MAW commanding general. "I think that 1st MAW commanding generals are uniquely positioned, given the wing's force locations, its geographic positioning, its neighborhood of allies, partners, competitors and belligerents, and the wing's associated war plan requirements, to really advance our understanding of how to plan, employ, and fight a Marine Air Wing (and its subordinate elements) across the range of military operations."
After commissioning in 1964, he reported to the 3d Marine Division in Okinawa where he served as a platoon commander in the 3d Tank Battalion. In April 1965, he deployed to Da Nang, Vietnam, in support of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines. Upon completion of his first combat tour in May 1966, Forney was assigned to the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, as the administrative officer of Headquarters & Headquarters Squadron 37.
After that, he transferred to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, where he underwent flight training and was designated a Naval Aviator in May 1968. He then reported to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 based at MCAS El Toro. Forney transplaced with the Red Devils to Chu Lai, Vietnam in March 1969, where he completed his second combat tour.
Transferring back to the states in 1970, he was assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 in Yuma, Arizona, where he remained for five years, serving primarily as a flight instructor and maintenance officer.
From there, Forney returned to Western Pacific in June 1975, where he served as the aviation maintenance officer for VMFA-115, the Silver Eagles. Following graduation from the Air Command and Staff College in Montgomery, Alabama, he reported to the commander, Naval Air Forces Atlantic, for duty as the fighter class desk officer.
In July 1980, he was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 31, Beaufort, South Carolina, for duty as the commanding officer of Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 31 until July 1981, when he was reassigned as the commanding officer of VMFA-122 Crusaders. Upon completion of his tour as squadron commander, he reported to Tyndell Air Force Base, Florida, for duty as the Marine Corps representative to North American Air Defense 23d Air Division. He subsequently attended the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, after which he was assigned once again to the 3d Marine Division on Okinawa as the division air officer and director of the III Marine Amphibious Force Tactical Exercise Evaluation Control Group.
From July 1987 until July 17, 1989, Forney served as the commanding officer of MAG-15, 1st MAW on Okinawa. He then was assigned duty as the chief of staff, 3d MAW, MCAS El Toro. In September 1990, he deployed with 3rd MAW to Southwest Asia.
After multiple combat tours to Vietnam, he was selected for promotion to brigadier general in December 1990. Then, he was assigned as the commanding general of 3d Force Service Support Group (reinforced), Pacific, Okinawa, on June 27, 1991. He assumed his last assignment as 1st MAW commanding general in July 1992.
"General Forney, having served multiple tours in Vietnam as a young officer as well as his time as the chief of staff for 3d MAW during Desert Shield/Desert Storm, no doubt influenced his direction as the Wing commanding general to produce a premier warfighting organization," said Weidley.
After serving in the Marine Corps for 30 faithful years, his decorations include the Legion of Merit; Meritorious Service Medal with gold star; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V"; Air Medal with Numeral 8; and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Forney, a native of Union City, Tennessee, will always be remembered as having served an important role in shaping the foundation of 1st MAW.
"General Forney had an atypical career path (by today's standards) yet he rose to the general officer ranks and commanded both a Force Service Support Group (predecessor to the MLG) and a Marine Aircraft Wing," said Weidley. "This Warrior-leader certainly impacted generation after generation of Marines across all elements of the [Marine Air-Ground Task Force] MAGTF."
His legacy lives on through the impact that he left on 1st MAW through his leadership and commitment to Marines and Sailors. Forney will not be forgotten.