Marine Medium Tilt-Rotor Squadron VMM-165
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-165 [HMM-165]
Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (REIN) deployed a month and a half early in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, vice the scheduled mid-January 2002 departure. The "World Famous White Knights" deployed as the Air Combat Element (ACE) of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The 13th MEU was notified of its SOC certification 20 November 2001, after completing Special Operations Capable Exercise early in the predeployment cycle and two follow-on missions Nov. 16 and 19. The reinforced squadron deployed with six Harrier jets, four Cobra helicopter gunships, four CH-53 Super Stallion transport helicopters, 12 CH-46 Sea Knights and three UH-1 Hueys.
The Marines and Sailors of HMM-165 are currently calling Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA home. HMM-165 is a medium lift helicopter squadron that provides the foundation for the Aviation Combat Element (ACE) of a Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The White Knights are currently the ACE for the 13th MEU. MEU's are constantly on station around the world to provide the quick reaction force for the nation in this turbulent and dangerous world. When HMM-165 is Reinforced and becomes the ACE for the MEU several different aircraft join the Squadron to form a composite squadron.
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 was activated on the first of July 1965 at Marine Corps Air Station, Santa Ana, California as part of Marine Aircraft Group 36, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. During August of 1965, the White Knights were reassigned to Marine Wing Service Group 37.
In September of 1966, the White Knights deployed to the Republic of Vietnam, where they were assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. From October 1966 to August 1969, the squadron operated from Ky Ha, Hue/Phu Bai, the USS Valley Forge, the USS Tripoli, Marble Mountain area near Da Nang, and from the USS Tarawa. In August of 1969, the squadron redeployed to Okinawa where it was reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 15 of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade. In December of 1969, the squadron became part of Marine Aircraft Group 36 again and it remained a part of the Group until 1977.
HMM-165 deployed multiple times to the Republic of Vietnam with MAG-36, conducting combat and support operations throughout the area. The squadron flew operations out of Chu Lai, Hue, Da Nang, and off the decks of the USS Tarawa, Tripoli and Valley Forge.
The squadron played an important role during the Tet Offensive, flying various support missions including flying U.S. and Republic of Vietnam forces into battle, evacuating casualties, and getting supplies and equipment to various bases and positions.
One such example, the squadron provided support during the Battle of Hue City from January 30 – March 3. During the counter-offensive, eight CH-46’s from the squadron flew members of 4th Battalion, 2nd Army of the Republic of Vietnam, into the Citadel of Hue City from Dong Ha. After an engine failure forced a water landing, a HMM-165 CH-46 began to float due to its design, buoyancy and a still functioning second engine. The floating helicopter made its way to shore with no injuries to crew and helped codify the procedures for ‘water taxiing.’
In the final few days of the Vietnam War, HMM-165 took part in Operation Frequent Wind, the evacuation of Saigon. This operation would become the largest evacuation of noncombatants in U.S. military history. In a 24-hour period from 29 – 30 April, more than 7,000 U.S. and South Vietnamese citizens were successfully evacuated in the days prior to the Fall of Saigon.
During the evacuation, Capt. Gerry Berry, pilot of Lady Ace 09, a CH-46 of HMM-165, flew more than 18 hours, evacuating U.S. and Vietnamese citizens. Berry and his crew, evacuated American Ambassador Graham Martin from the American Embassy under direct orders from President Gerald Ford, and were some of the last U.S. Marines out of Vietnam during the conflict.
Lady Ace 09 has since been refurbished and is on display at the museum aboard Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, California. The Vietnam War cost HMM-165 33 of its members. A list of the fallen is kept and honored by the squadron to this day.
During the early 1970's, HMM-165 participated as part of the Special Landing Force in support of activities in the Republic of Vietnam; the squadron was also part of the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit operating with the Seventh Fleet. During July and August of 1972, the White Knights took part in Philippine flood relief operations, flying in food and supplies to local populations. In April of 1975, helicopters of HMM-165 took part in the evacuation of Saigon, Operation Frequent Wind. Lady Ace 09 evacuated the ambassador on the morning of 30 April 1977. In November of 1977, the White Knights packed up and moved to Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii where they were reassigned to Marine Aircraft Group 24, the air combat element of the 1st Marine Brigade.
During September and October 1983, as part of the 31st Marine Amphibious Unit, HMM-165 deployed to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans. HMM-165 was diverted to Beirut, Lebanon, where they conducted contingency operations from the deck of the USS Tarawa. In December 1989, the White Knights supported American interests, to include reinforcement of the American Embassy, in the Republic of the Philippines during that country's coup attempt.
In August of 1990, the squadron was sent to Saudi Arabia to participate in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The White Knights returned home from Saudi Arabia in March of 1991. HMM-165 was the "last squadron in the Philippine Islands" when they supported the special purpose MAGTF from July to November 1992. From September to October 1992 a detachment was sent to Cambodia to participate in Joint Task Force Full Accounting. The squadron aided the task force in the search for remains of MIA's from the war in Vietnam. In March 1993, another detachment from HMM-165 was sent to Cambodia to participate in Joint Task Force Full Accounting; this time the mission was cut short when the task force base camp was attacked by mortar fire in April of 1993.
In September of 1994, the squadron was reassigned again to the 1st MAW, Aviation Support Element. As a result of the Base Realignment And Closure Committee's (BRAC) actions HMM-165 was reassigned from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing Aviation Support Element, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii to Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Air Wing, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, California on 15 May 96.
While assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 16, HMM-165 has participated in two Combined Arms Exercises; Desert Punch, the largest helicopter operation since the Vietnam war; and numerous squadron deployments. HMM-165 moved to MCAS Miramar, San Diego, CA in November of 1998 as the result of additional BRAC requirements. In December of 1998 HMM-165 was designated the Aviation Combat Element for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
HMM-165 participated in peacekeeping operations in East Timor in late 1999. With operations complete in East Timor, the Marines and Sailors of HMM-165 headed for home. The squadron's participation in "Operation Stabilize" was a overwhelming success. The fledgling democracy of East Timor benefited greatly from the tremendous effort put forth by all squadron personnel.
While assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 16, HMM-165 participated in two Combined Arms Exercises DESERT PUNCH, the largest helicopter operation since the Vietnam war; and numerous squadron deployments. HMM-165 moved to MCAS Miramar, San Diego, CA in November of 1998. In December of 1998 HMM-165 was designated the Aviation Combat Element for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
In July of 2001 HMM-165 was designated the Aviation Combat Element for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. After the terror attacks of 11 September 2001, HMM-165 was poised to deploy on an aggressive anti-terrorism campaign and support Operation ENDURING FREEDOM in Afghanistan.
In December 2002, the White Knights deployed to Iraq on the USS BOXER. The Squadron supported Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1) as they pushed up to Baghdad. On 1 April 2003, the Squadron supported Task Force 20 in extracting US POW Army PFC Jessica Lynch. The duration of the deployment was spent operating from Jalibah Forward Operating Base. The Squadron returned home in June and supported Combined Arms Exercises at MCAGCC 29 Palms in November.
In December 2004, the White Knights deployed with the 15th MEU (SOC) to the Pacific Ocean aboard the USS BONHOMME RICHARD. The squadron provided relief to tsunami victims during Operation UNIFIED ASSISTANCE in January 2005. HMM-165 (REIN) then participated in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM from March to April of 2005, out of Al Taqaddum Airbase, FOB Falcon, and Al Asad Airbase. The squadron returned home to MCAS Miramar in June 2005.
HMM-165 Reinforced (REIN) deployed with the 15th MEU (SOC) again in September 2006, aboard the USS BOXER. The White Knights participated in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM from November 2006 to April 2007, providing support to the Multi-National Forces West from Al Asad Airbase and Camp Korean Village. The squadron returned home to Miramar in May 2007.
Eleven months after returning home, HMM-165 (REIN) set sail with the 15th MEU onboard the USS PELELIU in May of 2008 for WESTPAC 08-02. The squadron participated in two bilateral training exercises: Operation EAGER MACE and Operation INFINITE MOONLIGHT while ashore in Kuwait and Jordan. The squadron’s CH-53E detachment spent one month stationed at Al Asad Airbase in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
On their last deployment flying the CH-46E, HMM-165(REIN) again deployed with the 15th MEU in May 2010 aboard the USS PELELIU. During their WESTPAC 10-1 deployment the White Knights spent two and a half months in Pakistan conducting Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief (HA/DR) where they delivered 5.6 million pounds of relief supplies and transported 8,933 flood victims to safety. The HMM-165(REIN) CH-53 detachment completed the longest amphibious insert in Marine Corps history when they traveled over 625 miles to Ghazi Airbase in Northern Pakistan. Also during this deployment the squadron’s UH-1 and AH-1 aircraft flew in the takedown of the pirated merchant vessel Magellan Star in the Gulf of Aden and the attached AV-8s flew missions into Afghanistan supporting Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF).
When the White Knights returned home in December 2010, they retired their venerable CH – 46s after 46 years of service, and transitioned to the MV-22 Osprey platform, officially becoming Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron – 165 on April 11, 2011. Since transitioning over to the MV-22, VMM-165 completed one deployment in Afghanistan, operating out of Camp Bastion from August 2013 – March 2014 and is currently deployed as a part of the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command.
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