US Marine Corps, July 02, 2014 - CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. by Lance Cpl. Caitlin Bevel - Marines with Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, celebrated the 50th anniversary of their squadron and the Boeing Vertol CH-46E Sea Knight aboard Camp Pendleton, Calif., July 1, 2014.
The Sea Knight was first purchased by the Marine Corps in 1964 and was used in the Vietnam War soon thereafter to transport troops and supplies between naval ships and shore. They are still in use, being employed in May 2014 to fight wildfires in San Diego County. The mission of the CH-46E is to provide all-weather, day and night transport for amphibious and land operations.
“It can give fire power to grunts in the field and it can pick up troops and drop them off where a lot of other aircraft can’t,” said Sgt. Maj. Irving Green, the sergeant major of HMMT-164.
Green said that the ceremony was important to recognize and remember the history of the Knight Riders and the Marines who worked on or with the Sea Knights.
“[This is] for the Marines who were in this squadron back in the Vietnam War who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Green.
The anniversary celebration started with a squadron motivational run on the flight line lead by Green and Lt. Col. Gabriel Valdez, the commanding officer of HMMT-164. Following the run there was a ceremonial cake cutting in the HMMT-164 hangar and a squadron photo with the Sea Knights on the flight line.
Green said that the Marines of HMMT-164 take great pride in maintaining and caring for the Sea Knights. Unlike most squadron’s, every one of their aircraft are ready to fly, he added.
“These aircraft, despite being 50 years old, have been performing phenomenally,” said Valdez.
HMMT-164 was the first unit in the Marine Corps to use the Sea Knights and now it is the last. In 2015, the Marines will fully transition to the newer MV-22 Osprey. Valdez said that the Marines should be proud of their role in Marine Corps history and pass that piece of history on to future members of the squadron.
“Although they may not be flying the [CH-46E] much longer, they will take that tradition and legacy with them in flying the Osprey,” said Valdez.
Green said the Osprey is the future of the Marine Corps and it might lead us into battle for the next 50 years.