Marine Aircraft Group 36 (MAG-36)
The mission of Marine Aircraft Group 36 (MAG-36) is to support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) with combat ready expeditionary assault support aircraft and when directed, plan and conduct aviation operations as a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) level Aviation Combat Element (ACE).
Marine Aircraft Group (Helicopter Transport) 36 (MAG[HT]-36) was commissioned at Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana on 2 June 1952. While Marine Observation Squadron 6 (VMO-6) was making history in Korea as the first Marine helicopter squadron in US history to conduct combat operations, MAG-36 squadrons, consisting of Marine Transport Helicopter Squadrons (HMRs) 361, 362 and 363, were devoting long hours to testing and improving the techniques of employing their HRS-1 helicopters in amphibious ship-to-shore movements. MAG(HT)-36 took part in many large-scale operations including atomic bomb testing during Operation Desert Rock. This involved carrying out an assault exercise on an objective near an actual atomic explosive. On 5 September 1955, MAG-36 moved to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) El Toro and attached to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW) when the Wing returned from Korea. On 16 March 1959, the modifier "(Helicopter Transport)" was dropped from MAG-36's designation.
MAG-36 deployed to the Republic of Vietnam in August 1965 and attached to 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW). MAG-36 became the first complete Marine Aircraft Group to be transported by sea and arrive in a combat zone when it launched from the decks of the USS Princeton for Chu Lai Base on 1 September 1965. Upon arrival, they provided resupply, troop lifts, air strikes, medical evacuation, and recon team inserts/extracts for troops in the Southern I Corps Tactical Zone area of operations. These missions involved a variety of aircraft including UH-1E Gunships, CH-46 Sea Knights, and UH-34 Sea Horses. In the fall of 1967, MAG-36 moved to Phu Bai, and by early 1968 was heavily involved in thwarting the Tet Offensive. Throughout the battle for Hue, MAG-36 helicopters supported ground forces in and around the ancient city. As the focal point of action switched from Khe Sahn to Leatherneck Square, MAG-36 aircrews continued to support Marines who where making movement in I Corps Tactical Zone precarious for the enemy.
On 4 November 1969, MAG-36 withdrew from Vietnam and relocated to MCAS Futenma, Okinawa Japan. Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR-152) joined MAG-36 at that time. In 1970, MAG-36 began providing composite helicopter squadrons to the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit (31st MAU) afloat. That unit later was redesignated as the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU). During May 1972, VMGR-152 redeployed detachments to Thailand and Vietnam to provide combat air refueling for 1st MAW fighter/attack aircraft until October 1972 when the detachment returned to Futenma. June 1972 saw MAG-36 opening a new chapter in Marine aviation history with operations against North Vietnamese waterborne logistics system by AH-1J Sea Cobras in support of the Seventh Fleet.
Following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords and the end of direct US involvement in Vietnam, in early 1973, squadrons from MAG-36 participated in Operation End Sweep, the joint Navy/Marine Corps mine sweeping effort in Haiphong Harbor. At the conclusion of this operation, MAG-36 resumed its ready posture, participating in numerous joint service exercises in Korea, the Philippine Republic, and Australia.
On 11 April 1975, MAG-36 returned to Southeast Asia and provided transport for Operation Eagle Pull, the successful emergency evacuation of Americans from Cambodia. Following this, MAG-36 deployed all available aircraft aboard Seventh Fleet ships for Operation Frequent Wind. On 29 April 1975, MAG-36 helicopters evacuated over 7,000 people from Saigon in a 24-hour period.
From the late 1970s through the 1980s, MAG-36 continued to support fleet operations in the Pacific Theater. MAG-36 became the Unit Deployment Program (UDP) linchpin in the Western Pacific. As part of the UDP, CH-46, CH-53, and OV-10 squadrons from Hawaii and California deployed to MCAS Futenma for 6-month rotations. During these deployments MAG-36 participated in numerous exercises and training deployments to various countries around the Western Pacific.
In November 1992, the last UDP detachment of OV-10s returned to Camp Pendleton, California. In the spring of 1993, HMM-262 arrived from Hawaii to become a permanent part of MAG-36. HMM-262 was followed by HMM-265, and these 2 CH-46 squadrons formed the backbone of the 31st MEU Aviation Combat Element (ACE). Throughout the 1990s, MAG-36 units participated in a variety of contingency operations. In 1995, MAG-36 units conducted relief operations in Kobe, Japan after 6,400 people lost their lives in a massive earthquake and also participated in the withdrawal of United Nation Forces from Somalia during Operation United Shield. In 1999, units responded to a no-notice deployment to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Fox and to East Timor for peacekeeping during Operation Stabilize.
MAG-36 continued to participate in the UDP program into the 2000s. As of 1 March 2001, Marine light attack helicopter squadrons designated for UDP deployment to MAG-36 included Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadrons 169, 267, 367, and 369. At the same time, Marine heavy helicopter squadrons designated for UDP deployment to MAG-36 included Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadrons 361, 462, 465, and 466.
During the first decade of the 21st century, MAG-36 units continued to support Theater Security Cooperation exercises and numerous contingency operations. In 2004 and 2007 respectively, HMM-265 and HMM-262 deployed to Iraq in support Operation Iraqi Freedom combat operations. Beginning in May 2009, VMGR-152 provided an enduring 2-plane detachment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
MAG-36 was also consistently involved in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and other contingency operations. In November 2007, in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Sidr, MAG-36 elements deployed to Bangladesh for Operation Sea Angel II. MAG-36 supported Operation Caring Response in May 2008 from Thailand after Tropical Cyclone Nargis impacted Burma. Additionally, MAG-36 has conducted humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the Philippines on 3 separate occasions: during 2004 with Joint Task Force 535, following 3 back-to-back typhoons in October 2009, and again in October 2010 in the wake of Super Typhoon Megi. During Operation Tomodachi, the response to an earthquake and subsequent tsunami of the coast of Japan on 11 March 2011, MAG-36 deployed to mainland Japan.
In July 2012, the first MV-22 Osprey aircraft was deployed to Japan as part of the conversion of HMM-265 from a Marine medium helicopter squadron to a Marine medium tiltrotor squadron. The unit was subsequently designated as Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (VMM-265). The Osprey became controversial topic in Japan, and thousands of Japanese protested the aircraft's use there. Japanese concerns focused on the aircraft's safety record and whether the aircraft would provide an undue hazard to the local population. An agreement was eventually reached allowing VMM-265 to operate its new MV-22 aircraft from their base at MCAS Futenma. In September 2013, HMM-262 followed suit and retired the last of its CH-46Es, finishing its transition to VMM-262 and the MV-22 aircraft. At this point there were no more CH-46 aircraft in Marine Corps units on Okinawa or in the Pacific.
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