VMM-161

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Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161
VMM-161 insignia.jpg
New VMM-161 insignia
Active
  • January 15, 1951 - present
Country United States
Allegiance United States of America
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type Medium-lift tiltrotor squadron
Role Assault Support
Part of Marine Aircraft Group 16
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Garrison/HQ Marine Corps Air Station Miramar
Nickname "Greyhawks"
Motto "Equitatus Caeli"
"Cavalry from the Sky"
Tail Code YR
Engagements Korean War
Vietnam War
* Operation Starlite
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Enduring Freedom
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Commanders
Current
commander
LtCol Brad Harms
Notable
commanders
Keith B. McCutcheon

Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 (VMM-161) is a United States Marine Corps transport squadron consisting of MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. The squadron, known as the "Greyhawks", is based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 16 (MAG-16) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW). The squadron has the distinction of being the first helicopter transport squadron in the world.[1]

History[edit]

Korean War[edit]

The squadron was activated on January 15, 1951 at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California, as Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 161 (HMR-161) Air Fleet Marine Force Pacific, the squadron moved a month later to Marine Corps Air Facility, Santa Ana, California to train on their new helicopter, the Sikorsky HRS-1. Except for the commanding officer, LtCol George Herring, most pilots in the squadron had flown fighters during World War II.[2] In August 1951 the squadron deployed to Korea and attached to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1 MAW), where it operated in the central and the western fronts.[3]

HRS-1s of HMR-161 flying from USS Sicily in September 1952.

After becoming the first helicopter squadron to deploy troops into combat, HMR-161 successfully flew from the USS Sicily (CVE-118) to test new concept of combining vertical envelopment with amphibious assault during Operation "Marlex-5" off the coast of Inchon on September 1, 1952. While not the first ever ship to shore helicopter flight with Marines aboard, that having been done by HMR-162 during Operation Lex Baker off the coast of Southern California in February, 1952, it was the first on foreign shores. During the course of the Korean War, HMR-161 flew 16,538 hours during 18,607 sorties eventually accounting for over 60,000 troop movements and moving 7.5 million pounds of cargo.[4][5] The Greyhawks then participated in the defense of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from July 1953 to March 1955. The Squadron then relocated that month to Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, and attached to Marine Aircraft Group 13 (MAG 13). While in Hawaii, HMR-161 was redesignated on December 31, 1956 as Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (Light) 161 (HMR(L)-161), MAG 13, 1st MAW. In May 1960, the Squadron received the new Sikorsky H-34 Seahorse.

On February 1, 1962, the unit was once again re-designated as Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMM-161), MAG 13, 1st Marine Brigade. On October 3, 1962 the Greyhawks assisted NASA by recovering astronaut Wally Schirra and his Mercury Capsule "Friendship Seven" out of the Pacific after a successful launch into space.

During 1963, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMM-161) assisted in several biological warfare tests conducted under Project SHAD at Pearl Harbor, Kaneohe Naval Air Station and in the Pacific Ocean, near Oahu, Hawaii.

Further information: Project 112

The rest of the early 1960s were spent conducting anti-guerrilla training in preparation for deployment to Vietnam.

Vietnam War and the 1980s[edit]

A helicopter from HMM-161 waiting to transport prisoners just south of Chu Lai during Operation Starlite in 1965.

HMM-161 deployed in May 1965 to Phu Bai Combat Base, Republic of Vietnam[6] and attached to MAG-16, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. It then relocated in January 1966 to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa to receive its new Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight. By April 1966, the Greyhawks had redeployed to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam with a move to Phu Bai that June. On September 25, 1966 a UH-34D HUS from HMM-161 was struck by a friendly artillery shell while conducting a medevac mission during Operation Prairie resulting in the death all five Marines on board. It is the only known case of friendly artillery fire shooting down an American helicopter during the war.[7] The squadron relocated once again in November 1966 to Futenma, Okinawa, where it was attached to Marine Aircraft Group 15 (MAG-15), 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade. A month later the Greyhawks returned to CONUS, as they were attached to Marine Aircraft Group 26 (MAG-26), 2d MAW at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina. HMM-161 then redeployed in May 1968 to Quang Tri, Republic of Vietnam and attached to provisional Marine Aircraft Group 39(MAG-39), 1st MAW. The Squadron finished its Vietnam Years with its final deployment to Phu Bai in October 1969 while attached to MAG-16, 1st MAW.

HMM-161 came home in September 1970 and attached to MAG-56, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force Pacific. It was reassigned in July 1971 to MAG-16, 3d MAW. Elements of the Squadron participated in the August 1989 cleanup of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

CH-46E

The Gulf War and the 1990s[edit]

Old HMM-161 insignia.

In 1990 they deployed on August 17 to Saudi Arabia as part of MAG-70, 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade in support of Operation Desert Shield. The squadron would eventually participate in Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In 1995, they participated in Operation United Shield, the withdrawal of United Nations Forces from Somalia. By the end of the year, the unit had relocated to MCAS El Toro, California. In 1997, the Greyhawks deployed in March aboard the USS Boxer to the WESTPAC and Persian Gulf as the ACE for the 15th MEU(SOC), where they flew missions in support of Operation Southern Watch in Iraq. In February 1999, HMM-161 moved from MCAS El Toro to MCAS Miramar, California.

Global War on Terror[edit]

The new millennium began well for the Squadron, as it won the Edward C. Dyer Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron of the Year for 2001. This followed the 2000 WESTPAC Deployment, which saw the Greyhawks provide humanitarian assistance in East Timor. On January 6, 2003, HMM-161 (Rein) deployed as a part of the 15th MEU for a WESTPAC Float that would end up supporting Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Greyhawks were assigned the mission of Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP). Although no TRAP missions were necessary during the OIF, the Squadron did fly Casevac and numerous other missions. The Squadron returned home to MCAS Miramar on July 12, 2003.

In November 2003, Marines of HMM-161 were told they would be redeploying to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom II (OIF II). Immediate preparations were begun, and the Squadron used its December deployment to Indian Springs, Nevada to train for the conditions that would be faced during OIF II. While at Indian Springs, the Marines of HMM-161 made their mark in Squadron history by surpassing the 40,000 mishap-free flight hours plateau. This climb into the history books began back in August 1995 and culminated with a ground crew appreciation flight over the Hoover Dam and the Las Vegas Strip.

After receiving its cargo and aircraft at Ash Shu'aybah Port, Kuwait, the Squadron flew up to Al Taqaddum, Iraq during the first week of March to set up for the relief in place with the 82nd Airborne Brigade. The Squadron made 752 consecutive mission launches in support of I MEF operations during OIF II, logging 3072.8 hours of flight time. The Greyhawks were relieved on September 1, 2004 by HMM-268 with the main body arriving back at MCAS Miramar on September 6. Throughout their service during OIF II, the Greyhawks moved 116,480 pounds of cargo and 2,929 passengers, including 328 patients that needed urgent care.

HMM-161 Phrog painted for squadron's 55th Anniversary celebrated in Iraq on January 15, 2006.

In August 2005, the squadron redeployed to Iraq for its third OIF deployment. The Greyhawks provided around-the-clock casualty evacuation and assault support in Al Anbar Province. During this deployment, the squadron flew 5,199 combat flight hours, transported more than 2,100 wounded personnel and conducted 19 raids and assault support missions that led to the capture of numerous insurgents. The Greyhawks safely completing 2,999 assault support requests without mishap or damage from enemy action.

On February 8, 2006, HMM-161 marked their 50,000th flight hour without a Class "A" mishap during their latest deployment to Al Taqaddum, Iraq. During this time period, which began February 19, 1995, the squadron flew 9,100 combat hours during three combat deployments.[8]

The squadron returned from its third OIF deployment on March 4, 2006. Following the deployment the squadron was awarded its fourth consecutive Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award and the Marine Corps Aviation Association's 2006 Commandant's Aviation Award in recognition as the year's best overall performance by a Marine squadron.

On February 3, 2007, HMM-161 embarked upon its fourth combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terror by sending a small advance party back to Al Taqaddum, Iraq to prepare for the arrival of the Squadron's Main Body on March 1. The Greyhawks officially resumed their role in Casualty Evacuations and General Support on March 9, 2007.

On September 24, HMM-161 returned from Al Taqaddum, Iraq, with their CASEVAC bell, the symbol of their mission in the area. They took the bell with them instead of leaving it for the next squadron because the mission of CASEVAC had been temporarily turned over to the soldiers of an Army Blackhawk detachment on the same base.[8]

As of the end of the deployment, the squadron is at a record of over 58,000 class A mishap free flight hours total. This achievement is unable to be surpassed by any other CH-46E squadron due to the fact the new MV-22 Osprey will be replacing the CH-46E, and no other squadron has a record close enough to the Greyhawks' that they would be able to beat it.

In December 2009, HMM-161 became the first of ten west coast squadrons to transition to the MV-22 Osprey and changed their name to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161 during the change of command.[9][10]

Media[edit]

All of CH-46 helicopters in the Call of Duty Modern Warfare series are from HMM-161 as depicted by the tail code 'YR' with the helicopters nose number being '25'

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Kristy, "Museum Preserves 60 Years of Marine Corps Rotary Wing Aviation", Fortitudine, 2007.
  2. ^ Dorr Marine Air, p.139.
  3. ^ Simmons 2002, p. 209.
  4. ^ Dorr Marine Air, p. 150
  5. ^ Hearn Illustrated, p. 254
  6. ^ Fails(1978), p. 92.
  7. ^ Coan (2004), p.49.
  8. ^ a b Hammel, "HMM-161 flies 50,000th safe hour in Iraq", Marine Corps News, 2006.
  9. ^ Fuentes, Gidget (December 17, 2009). "First West Coast-based Osprey arrives". Marine Corps Times. Retrieved 18 December 2009. 
  10. ^ ‘Greyhawks’ celebrate history

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
Bibliography
  • Coan, James P. (2004). Con Thien - Hill of Angels. Tuscaloosa, Alabama: The University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-1414-8. 
  • Dorr, Robert F. (2005). Marine Air - The History of the Flying Leathernecks in Words and Photos. Penguin Group. ISBN 0-42520-725-0. 
  • Fails, William R. (1978). Marines & Helicopters, 1962 - 1973. Washington D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters Marine Corps. ISBN 0-7881-1818-8. 
  • Hearn, Chester G. (2003). The Illustrated Directory of the United States Marine Corps. Salamander Books. ISBN 1-84065-513-5. OCLC 59372577. 
  • Hamel, CPL James D, 2nd MAW (February 8, 2006). "HMM-161 flies 50,000th safe hour in Iraq". Marine Corps News (United States Marine Corps). Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-11-21. 
  • Kristy, Ben (2007). "Museum Preserves 60 Years of Marine Corps Rotary Wing Aviation". Fortitudine (Quantico, Virginia: Marine Corps History Division) 32 (4): 15–16. 
  • Montross, Lynn. Cavalry of the Sky - The Story of U.S. Marine Combat Helicopters. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1954.
  • Simmons, Edwin H. (2003). The United States Marines: A History, Fourth Edition. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-790-5. OCLC 50503539. 
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