Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Squadron VMM-268
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-268 [HMM-268]
Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 268 (HML-268) was activated as a squadron on 15 September 1972 at MAG-29, Marine Corps Air Station (H), New River, N.C., flying Bell UH-1N Huey helicopters. The Squadron provided utility combat helicopter support to the landing force during ship-to-shore movement and in subsequent operations ashore. After five years, it was deactivated on 30 September 1977.
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 (HMM-268) was reactivated on 1 March 1979 at MAG-16, MCAS (H) Tustin, Calif. The Red Dragons were designated for medium-lift, flying the Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters.
On 24 February 1980, HMM-268 deployed for the first time under the Unit Deployment Program. While assigned to MAG-36, MCAS (H) Futenma, Okinawa, the RED DRAGONS conducted operations on the Japanese mainland and Korea. After the squadron's second deployment, HMM-268 was officially designated as the 3d Marine Aircraft Wing "Night Assault Squadron" in 1983 and led the way on Night Vision Goggle employment.
In 1986, the Red Dragons began their current cycle of Western Pacific deployments as the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) as part of the 11th Marine Amphibious Unit aboard the USS New Orleans.
Since that time, the Red Dragons have participated in numerous Western Pacific and South West Asia deployments. While exercising in 1989, the Red Dragons answered the call to support the Exxon Valdez Alaskan oil spill cleanup, flying over 232 hours in support.
Responding to the Persian Gulf crisis in 1990, the Squadron embarked aboard the USS New Orleans to support Operation Desert Shield. The Red Dragons participated in numerous exercises and the largest post-Korean War amphibious landing.
During Operation Desert Storm, HMM-268(C) moved ashore and provided combat assault support to the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade, to include the "G-day" tactical insertion of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment along the Saudi Arabian/Kuwaiti border.
Since Operation Desert Storm, HMM-268 has continued to provide support to the Fleet including operations in Somalia and Eritrea.
In February 1999, the RED DRAGONS joined MAG-39 and MCAS Camp Pendleton as the result of the BRAC-mandated closures of Marine Corps Air Facility Tustin and MCAS El Toro.
The Red Dragons won the Marine Corps Aviation Association's Marine Helicopter Squadron of the Year in 1994. Additionally they have won nine Chief of Naval Operations Safety Awards, its most recent and fifth consecutive award in 1998.
The Red Dragons moved from MCAS El Toro to MCAS Camp Pendleton in February of 1999 as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Congressional tasking. They departed on 14 March 2001 as MAG-39's first Air Combat Element (ACE) for the 11th MEU(SOC). The squadron supported Humanitarian Operations in East Timor, lifting several hundred tons of needed goods to its people. The squadron participated in Operations EAGER MACE with the Kuwaiti Armed Services and RED REEF with the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces. Due to increasing terrorist threats in theater, Operation INFINITE MOONLIGHT was cancelled, and all 11th MEU(SOC) forces retrograded aboard the USS Boxer.
Following HMM-268's return to the U.S. on 13 September 2001, the squadron was removed from the deployment cycle and recognized with its tenth CNO Safety Award. However, this did not slow the pace of operations. The squadron participated in two deployments to Yuma, Arizona, a CAX in April of 2002, and a deployment to Davis-Monthan AFB in order to accomplish joint Combat Search and Rescue and defensive measures training with the Air Force.
In July of 2002, the Red Dragons reacquainted themselves with boat operations during a deployment aboard the USS Boxer, which was immediately followed by Urban CAX at Victorville, California. In September, the Red Dragons conducted Exercise SEA HORSE WIND at 29 Palms. Later in the month, the squadron sent a detachment to Bridgeport, California, to conduct high-altitude and mountain-area training.
In January 2003, HMM-268 learned that it would deploy to Kuwait in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. On 9 March 2003, the main body of the squadron embarked on commercial charter out of March AFRB under MAG-39. In March, ENDURING FREEDOM transitioned to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The Red Dragons distinguished themselves by their tireless combat assault support and Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC) operations throughout the area of operations, returning in September 2003.
HMM-268's down time was brief as they quickly transitioned into training for their next deployment. During this time of continuous high tempo operations, HMM-268 earned another CNO Safety Award, bringing its total to eleven. In August of 2004, HMM-268 deployed again to Iraq in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM II. Under MAG-16, the Red Dragons provided CASEVAC support to I MEF in Iraq's Al Anbar Province, including support during the Fallujah offensive Operation PHANTOM FURY and helped secure Iraq's first national elections in over 35 years. While based in Iraq, the Red Dragons conducted 816 CASEVACs before returning home in March 2005.
Upon their return, the Red Dragons began training immediately, participating in a TACRON to 29 Palms in August and a training detachment to Creech AFB, Nevada, in October. HMM-268 participated in Exercise DESERT TALON held at MCAS Yuma, Arizona, in December. HMM-268 was designated the Marine Corps Aviation Association's Medium-Lift Helicopter Squadron of the Year for 2005.
HMM-268 deployed under MAG-16 in February of 2006 in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM 05-07.1. Once in theater at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Al Taqaddum, Iraq, HMM-268 provided CASEVAC support in the Al Anbar Province once again, flying both raids and general support missions for I MEF. The Red Dragons flew 5,878 hours and performed 583 CASEVACs. The squadron returned to Camp Pendleton in September 2006 where they received their twelfth CNO Safety Award.
The Red Dragons conducted a TACRON to MCAF El Centro, California, in January 2007, and a squadron training deployment called DRAGON FAJR to Yuma, Arizona, in May 2007. The squadron remained through June to participate in Exercise DESERT TALON. From September 2007 to March 2008, the Red Dragons supported both MAG-29 and MAG-16 (Reinforced) under both 2d and 3d MAW in support of the Multi-National Force-West's Area of Operations once again from FOB Al Taqaddum. In November, the squadron received the 2007 Department of the Navy Aviation Safety Excellence Award. During the deployment, the Red Dragons flew over 6,200 hours while conducting numerous Helicopter Governance, medical support, combat resupply and troop lift missions and surpassed 25,000 mishap-free flight hours. Their efforts greatly contributed to the newly-termed Al Anbar Awakening, which referred to the successful political stabilization and governmental restructuring that occurred during HMM-268's time in the province. The Red Dragons returned to Camp Pendleton in March 2008, and in April, the squadron was awarded its thirteenth CNO Safety Award.
The squadron held a Change of Command Ceremony for Col Gamelin and LtCol Bufton on 6 June. From 27 June to 17 July, the Dragons were tasked by 3d MAW to provide two helicopters and three newly-trained fire bucket crews to support Operation WILDLAND FIREFIGHTING (OWFF). Based out of NAS Lemoore near Fresno, CA, the crews were on a 12-hour standby schedule and provided three days of on station support at the Oliver Fire thirty miles north of Fresno. In December 2008, HMM-268 detached to Yuma, AZ, for Desert Talon 1-09, in order to train for the upcoming deployment.
In March 2009, the Red Dragons deployed for the fifth time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. HMM-268 launched over 5,437 combat sorties and flew 4,655.7 mishap free flight hours while safely transporting 9,495 passengers and more than 280,037 pounds of cargo in support of Multi-National Forces-West.
Following the Red Dragons' final deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, HMM-268 was presented with the Edward C. Dyer Award for Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron of the Year for 2009 as well as the CNO Aviation Safety Award. The squadron began a long dwell period as it prepared for its first MEU deployment in almost a decade. From June through August of 2010, HMM-268 deployed six aircraft aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard for the Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2010(RIMPAC). In January of 2011, the squadron deployed to MCAGCC Twentynine Palms for Mojave Viper 3-11 and sent a detachment to the Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, CA, beginning its training for the upcoming deployment with the 11th MEU.
In the spring of 2011 the Red Dragons began receiving their MEU detachments and the squadron would be the first deployment of the AH-1Z as HMM-268(REIN). In May of 2011 the Red Dragons chopped to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit and began the MEU work-up cycle. HMM-268(REIN) deployed aboard the USS Makin Island and USS New Orleans on November 14th of 2011. While deployed, the Red Dragons participated in seven Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) exercises in Cambodia, Singapore, Malaysia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman. In addition to TSC, HMM-268(REIN) conducted bilateral and unilateral training in Djibouti as well as supported several national tasking missions. Throughout the seven month deployment the Red Dragons flew 4,029 mishap-free flight hours with six different Type/Model/Series aircraft, supported the movement of 5,700 passengers and 878,265 pounds of cargo, and maintained an average of 80% mission capable readiness.
Upon return from the MEU deployment, LtCol Blair turned over the colors of the squadron to LtCol Peterson in a change of command ceremony held on July 13th, 2012. The Red Dragons continued to support medium lift requirements within 3d Marine Aircraft Wing. HMM-268 participated in the inaugural Integrated Training Exercise (ITX) held at MCAGC Twentynine Palms in January 2013 as well as the commissioning ceremony of the USS Anchorage. In October 2013 the squadron relocated to MCAS Miramar and was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 16. On April 10th, 2014 the squadron was re-designated as Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 268.
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