Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-461 [HMH-461]
On March 15, 1944, Marine Fighting Squadron-461, Marine Base Defense Group 43, was commissioned at El Centro, Calif., with FAU Corsair. In January 1945, the squadron was relocated at El Toro, Calif., and assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 46 (MAG 46). During 1946 to 1949, VMF-461 was deployed aboard USS Palau (OVE 122), first as part of Marine Aircraft Carrier Group 12, and later, as part of the Atlantic Fleet. Upon return from deployment, VMF-461 was assigned to MAG-11 at Cherry Point, North Carolina. In September of 1950, VMF-461 was deactivated.
In January 1957, the squadron was reactivated at New River, North Carolina as Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (Medium) 461, HMR(M)-461, assigned to MAG 26. The squadron was equipped with the HR2S-1 (later to be designated as the CH-37), then the largest helicopter in the Marine Corps inventory. The "Deuce," as it was called, was capable of carrying 26 troops, or 8,000 pounds of cargo at speeeds up to 110 knots. The aircraft was powered by two R2800-54 engines and carried a crew of four. As part of the U.S. Space Program in 1961, HMR(M)-461 participated as the primary recovery vehicle for NASA AeroBee Rocket launches at Wallops Island, Va. In February 1962, HMR(M)-461 was redesignated Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-461 (HMH-461).
From 1962 to 1965, HMH-461 participated in various deployments and exercises in the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas, while deployed aboard USS Boxer and USS Guadalcanal. In February 1966, the squadron was reduced to cadre status to await arrival of the CH-53A helicopter, which replaced the Ch-37. In November 1970, the CH-53A was replaced by the CH-53D helicopter. Throughout the 1970's, HMH-461 continued its support of Fleet Marine operations in such places as the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas, Scandinavia, Northern Europe and Great Britain.
HMH-461 received a Meritorious Unit Citation for the time period Sept. 1, 1979 to April 30, 1980. In July 1981, the squadron was awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Safety Award for 1980. This same month, the squadron supported the NATO exercise Ocean Venture.
October 1987 marked another chapter in HMH-461 history with the first operational flight of the squadron's new CH-53E helicopters. In September 1988, HMH-461 took delivery of its first lot of 11 CH-53Es from Sikorsky Aircraft.
In October 1988, HMH-461 conducted joint operations with British 148th Battery/Royal Commando in suport of Burmese Chase. HMH-461 continued to support fleet Marine Force operations throughout the '80s. November 1988, HMH-461 detached four aircraft to HMM-264 in support of Landing Force Sixth Fleet, seven months ahead of schedule. February 1989, HMH-461 deployed six aircraft to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ark., in support of AMARC. In June 1989, HMH-461 deployed six aircraft to Plattsburgh AFB, N.Y., for mountainous terrain and night vision goggle flight training. August 1989, HMH-461 deployed six aircrafft to Kirtland AFB, N.M., for desert, hight altitude and Night Vision Goggle (NVG) training. In addition, two squadron aircraft performed an actual search and rescue of an injured Air Force F-16 pilot. In September 1989, HMH-461 deployed three aircraft to Puerto Rico to assist with Hurricane Hugo disaster relief. The squadron returned to Puerto Rico in December to support HMX-1 with the presidential visit to St. Martin.
In January 1990, HMH-461 deployed four aircraft to Combined Arms Exercise (CAX) 3/4-90. During this deployment, two aircraft made Marine Corps aviation history by being the first Marine Corps helicopters to aerial refuel using NVGs.
In February 1990, HMH-461 deployed four aircraft aboard ship to support the presidential visit to the Anti-Drug Summit in Colombia.
In May 1990, HMH-461 aircraft lifted an Army ADA Hawk Battery for Roving Sands-90.
From August 1990 through April 1991, HMH-461 deployed aboard USS Iwo Jima and headed to the conflict in the Persian Gulf. In January 1991, Detachment Delta launched two aircraft into Somalia for Operation Eastern Exit. In April, after 236 days deployed, HMH-461 returned to New River.
In June 1991, HMH-461 aircraft took part in both Military Appreciation Day in Washington, D.C. and New York City's Fleet Week aboard USS Nassau. In September 1992. the squadron sent six aircraft to Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico in support of exercise Eclipse Alpha-92. After returning in October, the squadron detached four aircraft to HMM-264 in support of the LF6F.
In July 1993, HMH-461 supported Warlord Exercise before the return of four aircraft from HMM-264 in September.
In October 1993 through June 1994, a detachment of four aircraft left with HMM-362 for contingency operations in Haiti.
In April 1994, a four aircraft detachment left with HMM-261 in support of LF6F. In October 1994, HMH-461 participated in the 1994 Naval Helicopter Association Fleet Fly-in at Naval Air Station Whiting Field.
During 1995 and 1996, the squadron continued a high operational tempo while accomplishing several noteworthy events. Several detachments left with various Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) in support of LF6F. In January, the squadron deployed to Naval Station Mayport on deployment for training, returning at the end of the month. In February, two aircraft participated in the commissioning ceremony for the USS Boxer (LHD-4). In May, HMH-461 became the first heavy helicopter squdron to lift a Riverine Assault Craft. In February 1996, two aircraft assisted the Coast Guard by moving two beached 15,000 pound buoys to safety. A four-day FTX in February preceded an April DFT in support on SOTG in which the squadron deployed for three weeks.
Four New River squadrons provided the air combat element for a capabilities exercise (CAPEX) aboard Camp Lejeune 30 April 1999. Among several other units participating in the event, Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron-269 (HML/A-269), Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-263 (HMM-263), Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-461 (HMH-461) and HMM-162, provided the essential air element in approximately seven of the eight CAPEX scenarios. The purpose of the CAPEX was to showcase Marine Corps capabilities in a variety of different tactical exercises.
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-461 returned helicopters that were stranded aboard Norfolk Naval Base, Nov. 3 and 7, 2000, to New River to install equipment to enable the helicopter to fly more safely. A mishap involving the swash plates on Navy MH-53Es caused the grounding of the Marine Corps' entire fleet of CH-53Es 24 August 2000. The grounding was the result of a problem with the bearings in the swash plate. Sikorsky Aircraft remedied the problem by hard-wiring gauges to the aircraft that will allow the pilots to measure the temperature and vibration of the bearings in the swash plate. The company had seven teams working on the Bearing Monitor System. He explained that the first aircraft taking priority for the modifications are those that are deployed or out of country. It took an average of four and a half days for the teams to install the BMS on a single aircraft. This was the reason the aircraft from HMH-461 needed to get back to New River, it made the modification process much easier when the planes are in one place. Navy Helicopter Counter-Measures Squadron-14 was hosting HMH-461 Marines during their unexpected, extended stay. The Iron Horses deployment began conducting Visit, boarding search and seizure operations on decommissioned ships from the James River Fleet for the Marine Expeditionary Unit detachment which went composite in October.
Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-461, Detachment Bravo, returned home to MCAS New River from Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, after being replaced on Oct. 22, 2004, by a new detachment of Marines from HMH-461, also called Detachment Bravo. The unit was deployed for six months to the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa mission. During that time, the unit flew more than 500 flight hours in support of the CJTF-HOA and performed over 20,000 maintenance hours on the four CH-53E Super Stallions deployed at the facility at the time, two of which were being rotated back and replaced by two brought in by the new detachment.
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