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Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-263 [HMM-263]

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 ["The Thunder Eagles"] was activated initially as Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (HMR) 263 on 16 June 1952 and was outfitted with HO5S Helicopters. For it' s first two (2) years of operations the squadron was home based at Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina. During the early months the squadron was occupied with proficiency training which contributed to the growing body of knowledge of rotary wing aircraft and their employment, then being developed by the Marine Corps.

On 7 July 1954, HMR-263 relocated to Marine Corps Air Facility, New River, North Carolina, where it remained home based for the next eleven (11) years. During this time the squadron participated in over fifteen (15) major exercises and deployments including relief in Tampico, Mexico (Oct 1955) and operations from the submarine USS SEA LION (Mar 1956). During December 1956 the squadron was redesignated HMR (L) 263 and re-equipped with the HUS-1 (UH-34) helicopter.

During October 1962, HMM-263 was deployed to the Caribbean when the United States initiated a response to Russian missiles employed in Cuba. The squadron became part of a much larger force which embarked there. In June 1964, the squadron was a participant in Exercise Steel Pike off the coast of Spain, then the largest amphibious exercise since World War II.

During April and May 1965, HMM-263 was deployed to the Dominican Republic in support of the United States assistance operations there. On 23 August 1965, HMM-263 served in Vietnam participating in over twenty-four (24) combat operations. During November 1967, HMM-263 was transferred to Santa Anna, California where it was re-equipped with CH-46D helicopters before redeploying to Vietnam in January 1969. The squadron remained in Vietnam until April 1971 and then transferred to Marine Corps Air Station, Quantico, Virginia and began flying the CH-46F helicopter. The (4) years in Vietnam earned the squadron numerous unit awards.

HMM-263 remained home based at Quantico for four (4) years and participated in several cold weather exercises, two (2) Mediterranean cruises, and one (1) Caribbean deployment in addition to numerous smaller training exercises. During August 1975, HMM-263 relocated to Marine Corps Air Station, New River, North Carolina. While home based at New River, the squadron completed the transition to the CH-46E helicopter during the summer of 1980. Over the course of past seventeen (17) years the squadron participated in four (4) major NATO exercises, made six (6) Mediterranean cruises, deployed on Goodwill cruises to Africa, South America, and the Caribbean.

The squadron first served in Lebanon from October 1982 until March 1983, and then again from April 1984 until August 1984. During the LF6F 1-86 deployment the squadron served as the Air Combat Element of the 26th MAU, the first Special Operations Capable MAU, which operated in support of CTF-60 during operations in Libya. HMM-263 deployed in May 1987 as the Air Combat Element of the 24th MAU for LF6F 3-87. Contingency operation in the Persian Gulf necessitated splitting the squadron into three sections, operating from CONUS, the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. Squadron aircraft participated in the seizure of the Iranian mine laying ship "Iran Ajar". In August 1990 the squadron again found itself headed for the Persian Gulf region. As a part of the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, HMM-263 was quick to respond to the aggression of Iraq against it's Kuwaiti neighbors. Squadron aircraft flew countless hours in support of the amphibious task force, participated in numerous amphibious assault exercises and conducted a flawless Non-combatant Evacuation Operation of the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia. The squadron also assisted in the interdiction of two Iraqi vessels in support of the United Nations mandated embargo of Iraq.

In March 1993 the squadron was called upon to support a USCENTCOM deployment to Somalia participating in operation RESTORE HOPE and CONTINUE HOPE. During Landing Force Sixth Fleet 2-95 deployment the squadron deployed aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) as the Aviation Combat Element for the 24th MEU(SOC). The squadron distinguished itself by conducting the successful TRAP rescue mission of Air Force pilot Captain Scott O'Grady on 8 June, 1995. During this deployment the squadron also participated in six large scale, multinational exercises, while providing TRAP support for Operations DENY FLIGHT and PROVIDE PROMISE in the Adriatic Sea, and in July 1996 the squadron was selected as the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron of the Year for it's efforts during LF6F 2-95. The squadron continued to support the Air-Ground team in a variety of operations and exercises, to include a LF6F deployment providing a U.S. presence in the Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea, Black Sea and the Arabian Gulf.

The squadron deployed in late 1997 as part of the 24th MEU. It was involved in Exercise Bright Star in Egypt.

In 2000, HMM-263(Rein) again deployed as the 24th MEU(SOC)'s Air Combat Element. During that time, it was involved in operations in Kosovo, exercises in Israel and throughout the Mediterranean. HMM-263(Rein) took part in the 24th MEU's Landing Force Sixth Fleet Deployment 2000-2. During one exercise, Dynamic Response [2000], HMM-263(Rein) provided support to the rest of the MEU in Kosovo while working out of its base camp at Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia and providing AV-8B fixed-wing support from aboard the USS WASP.

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