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Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-261 [HMM-261]

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261(HMM-261), the "Raging Bulls", was activated on 5 April, 1951 at MCAS Cherry Point, N.C. and designated Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (HMR) 261. Throughout its history, HMM-261 has carried the tail code of "EM" on its helicopters.

In 1954, the squadron moved from Cherry Point to MCAS New River, N.C. In 1956, the squadron was redesignated Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (Light) (HMR(L)) to reflect the acquisition of HUS helicopters to replace its HRS-1 helicopters. The squadroon was, during this period, the first helicopter squadron to conduct troop lifts on the East coast. In 1959, the Bulls deployed to Japan before returning to New River the next year.

In 1961, the squadron returned to Okinawa, Japan and was redesignated Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 261. The squadron was, by then, flying the H-34 helicopter. In 1963, the Bulls were assigned to Marine Air Group (MAG) 16, based in DaNang, Republic of Vietnam. During their time at DaNang, HMM-261 conducted combat operations and delivered troops and supplies throughout the operating area. Over 80 Bulls received Air Medals for actions during this tour in Vietnam. In 1964, the squadron deployed aboard the USS Valley Forge as part of the Ready Landing Force in the Western Pacific, and was afterwards shore-based at MCAS Futenma, Okinawa. Following an active West PAC tour, HMM-261 returned to New River.

The squadron returned to Vietnam a year later for the second of three eventual tours. During this tour, and the subsequent tour in 1965-1966, the Bulls operated from DaNang, Marble Mountain, ChuLai, and the USS Valley Forge. The squadron continued to fly the H-34 helicopter throughout both tours, and participated in several major offensives including: Operations Double Eagle, Utah, Nevada, Texas, and Hot Springs. Throughout its three combat tours in Vietnam, the Bulls never experienced a combat loss of aircraft, although many of the units' helicopters were badly shot up while performing medevacs and troop insertion missions.

In 1966 the Bulls came home to New River again. During the late 1960's the squadron accepted their first, brand new CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters. The squadron still flies an updated model of the same helicopter, the CH-46E (SR&M). Throughout the 1970's, the Bulls participated in various training exercises in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Caribbean regions. It was during this time that the squadron added to their nickname and became the "Raging Bulls".

In 1982, the Raging Bulls deployed to Beirut, Lebanon. In October, 1982, the squadron was about to be deployed again to Beirut, but was sidetracked and ordered to deploy to the Caribbean for the invasion of Grenada, codenamed Operation Urgent Fury. Theere, the squadron provided assault support during the initial landings and subsequent operations ashore. Two AH-1 Cobras were shot down and three squadron pilots killed during the invasion. Two CH-46 helicopters were also shot down. Several hundred American students received their rides to safety aboard Raging Bull aircrafts. Following this operation, the HMM-261 deployed to war-ravaged Beirut. While stationed off Beirut, the squadron conducted medevac missions in support of the Marine Amphibious Unit ashore following the bombing of the Marine Barracks, and flew over 800 American and Lebanese citizens to safety.

From 1983-1990, the Raging Bulls continued to make Mediterranean cruises as part of Marine Amphibious Units (MAU), and later marine Expeditionary Units (MEU). In 1990, while part of a MEU, the squadron took part in Operation Sharp Edge which consisted of the evacuation and protection of American citizens in Liberia. In January, 1991, following a quick turnaround in New River, the squadron deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. With the ground war in full swing, the Raging Bulls flew numerous medevac and assault support missions in support of 2D Marine Division. The squadron returned home to New River in April, 1991. Since then, the squadron has continued to serve as the Air Combat Element (ACE) for various MEU's, including two deployments to the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Bosnia.

In November 1996, the squadron took part in the 22d MEU for a Landing Force 6th Fleet (LF6F) Mediterranean Sea deployment. Training needed for preparation of MEU's has taken the squadron from New River to Charleston, South Carolina, Fort Eustis, Virginia, and several times to the USS Kearsarge off the Onslow County coast. Following this, the squadron and the MEU were declared Special Operations Capable (SOC) and then ready for the deployment.

April 15, 1997 saw HMM-261 (REIN) depart for LF6F 97-2 two weeks early to be on station in preparation for a pending Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) in the country of Zaire, leaving behind a detachment of (4) CH-46's and (2) UH-1N's to board the USS Ponce (LPD-15). The 22d MEU Forward including HMM-261(REIN) Det. A departed on time and entered the Mediterranean Sea to cover the 22d MEU's commitments there. During the deployment the main body of the 22d MEU participated in two major operations: 1)Operation Guardian Retrieval, operating out of Brazzaville, Congo; and 2)Operation Noble Obelisk, in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which resulted in the evacuation of more than 2,500 American citizens and foreign nationals. Meanwhile, HMM-261 (REIN)'s Det. A participated in Operation Silver Wake in Tirana, Albania while still managing to conduct nine joint exercises with nations bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Following this, HMM-261 was scheduled to go composite in March of 1999 for a winter 2000 deployment with the 22d MEU.

>Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-261 (HMM-261) is the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) for the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit's LF6F 2-02 deployment. Besides aircraft missions, HMM-261 is responsible for air reconnaissance, anti-air warfare, and air traffic control. In order to accomplish its mission as the 22nd MEU's air combat element, HMM-261 is reinforced with a variety of aircraft. At the disposal of the squadron's commanding officer are placed the squadron's organic CH-46 Sea Knight medium helicopters, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy helicopters, AH-1W Super Cobra gun ships, UH-1N "Huey" utility helicopters, and a detachment of AV-8B Harrier attack jets.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (Reinforced) served as the Aviation Combat Element for 22D Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), II Marine Expeditionary Force from 13 July 2001 to 31 Oct 2002.

In August 2001, the squadron joined attachments from HMH-461, HMLA-167, VMA-542, MWSS-272, MACG-28, MALS-26 and MALS-14 to form the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) for the 22D MEU.

During late August and early September 2001, the squadron deployed a detachment to Fort Bragg, NC in order to support a Battalion Landing Team 2/6 training exercise and continue integration of the major subordinate elements of the 22D MEU into a cohesive, effective Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF). In addition to early integration and coordination of individual unit Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the ACE and BLT focused on loading, securing and transporting the Interim Fast Attack Vehicles (IFAVs) for inclusion in raids and other special operations.

Late September found the Raging Bulls embarking the squadron aboard the USS WASP Amphibious Ready Group for PHIBRON/MEU Integration Training (PMINT). Integration of the MEU, PHIBRON and ships staffs was the primary focus, as well as day and night shipboard landing qualifications. During this training period, the squadron continued to conduct integration training, conducted R2P2 exercises and flew aircraft in support of BLT raid training and Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel (TRAP) missions.

In early October, the squadron supported the Maritime Special Purpose Force (MSPF) training, conducted Visit Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) training in Fort Eustis, VA, participated in a Combined Arms Staff Training Exercise (CASTEX), as well as prepared for Training in the Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX).

During the latter part of October through early November, the squadron deployed to Petersburg, VA for TRUEX where they conducted day and night operations in the urban environment, and continued helicopter insertion and extraction training. The exercise was concluded with a long range raid profile from Richmond, VA to Fort Dix, NJ which validated a long range capability using the CH-53E Tactical Bulk Fuel Dispensing System (TBFDS) and AH-1Ws for close air support.

Having been deployed during the New River Air Station sponsored celebration of the Marine Corps birthday, the squadron Marines were not able to participate. In order to offer the squadron Marines an appropriate ceremony, the squadron coordinated an all hands Marine Corps Ball for 500 Marines and their friends and families. The celebration included a catered dinner, traditional ceremony and Mr. Marion F. Sturkey, author of BONNIE SUE: A Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron In Vietnam, as the guest speaker. Many whom had attended, commented that it was the best Marine Corps ball they had ever attended.

In late December, the squadron joined four CH-53Es and two AH-1Ws in addition to its normal aircraft allocation increasing its capabilities for long-range combat operations. The squadron now consisted of 567 Marines composing a Reinforced Squadron of nine CH-46s, eight CH-53s, six AH-1Ws, two UH-1Ns and six AV-8B aircraft. With minimal time to prepare, the efficient integration of the new detachment was essential as the newly joined assets prepared to deploy within two months.

Early in February, the squadron celebrated the achievement of 40,000 consecutive flight hours without a flight mishap.

On 23 February 2002, the squadron departed New River embarked aboard the USS WASP ARG for its scheduled six-month deployment to the Commander Sixth Fleet Area of Responsibility. Because of operational requirements in the commander Fifth Fleet Area of responsibility, the WASP ARG steamed directly through the Suez Canal and reported on station to Commander Fifth Fleet. The squadron settled into shipboard life during the TRANSLANT and effectively operated off the ship for 95 consecutive days supporting the Horn of Africa (HOA) contingency operations.

During May, the squadron conducted split ARG operations. While the preponderance of the ACE flew missions in support of training a host nation Special Operations Forces in heliborne operations and developed military to military relations with potential allies in the War on Terrorism, Detachment Alpha conducted Sea Eagle '02.

The opportunity to train ashore was limited, but the squadron and other MEU elements participated in unilateral training as it became available ashore. The squadron participated in five phases of a MEU training exercise and established a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP), operated from a Forward operating base (FOB), and stand MEDEVAC ashore, day and night in the desert and mountainous environment of the region in order to maintain proficiency and currency. Long range operations were conducted using TBFDs and applying rotary wing Close Air Support (CAS) beyond the traditional range capability of the AH-1W aircraft.

During three months of MODLOC operations the squadron supported a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) and CASEVAC requirement for operations in Northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Additionally, the squadron supported logistic requirements for the ARG and established a logistics base in a host nation supporting the War on Terrorism.

During late May and early June, tensions between Pakistan and India grew over the disputed Kashmir region and the MEU and ACE planners went to work creating a detailed NEO plan in the event that tensions continued to escalate and American Citizens require evacuation from the country. Through planning and readiness, the squadron was able to support a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) offload at Misarah Island for follow-on KC-130 transportation in order to reinforce the Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan following the bombing 14 June. The reinforcements were in place within 12 hours of notification and four hours after authorization to initiate the insertion, ensuring the security of the bomb damaged Consulate.

The early part of July found the ARG in MODLOC again and the ACE flying their first AV-8B missions over Afghanistan, operationally committed to the War on Terrorism. AV-8s flew missions in support of CJTF-180 and coalition forces employing the Litening POD and contributing to close air support sorties available to forces on the ground.

During five months of operations in the Fifth Fleet Area of operations all Type/Model/Series aircraft in the squadron were routinely required to operate at the extreme limit of their capability, The Squadron executed missions day-in and day-out in the face of extremely challenging conditions and safely returned all Marines to Naval shipping.

During this training and deployment cycle Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 flew over 7,000 hours in 4264 sorties moving more than 14,321 passengers and 2.1 million pounds of cargo. All missions were accomplished without the single loss of equipment or serious bodily harm. In some of the most demanding flight regimes, hostile environments, austere working conditions, and dangerous mission profiles, the Raging Bulls accomplished every assigned mission, made effective use of their personnel and equipment resources, accomplished numerous maintenance and safety related innovations, and took care of their Marines, Sailors and their families.

The Raging Bulls returned in late August and decomposited by early Sept.

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