Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-364 [HMM-364]
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 was originally commissioned as Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 364 on 1 September 1961 at Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana, Calif. In November 1961, it received its first Sikorsky H-34 helicopter and in February of 1962, the designation of the squadron was changed to its present title.
In the spring of 1962, the squadron participated in Mid-Pacific operations to assist in recovering instruments which had been used in the atomic test program. In November 1963, the squadron deployed to Okinawa and subsequently to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam. The squadron served in Vietnam until July of 1964, whereupon it returned to Okinawa. Eight months later the squadron was back in South Vietnam, this time conducting operations, including operations with the Special Landing Force of the Seventh Fleet, HMM-364 remained in Vietnam until September of 1966.
The squadron was then placed in cadre status at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, Calif. and consisted of three officers and 12 enlisted Marines. In March of 1967, the squadron was reorganized and began receiving the new Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters. In October of that year, HMM-364 re-deployed to the Republic of Vietnam, initially at Phu Bai and eventually at Marble Mountain. During this tour HMM-364 participated in operations Osceola, Kentucky, Mamaluke Thrust, and Hue City and finally in the evacuation of the embassy in Saigon. For almost half of its short 10 year existence, HMM-364 served in the Republic of Vietnam. During its three tours there, the squadron's pilots and crewman flew almost 70,000 hours in combat and combat support missions and was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for meritorious conduct in the performance of duty. On 22 March 1971, the squadron folded its colors and was decommissioned.
On 28 September 1984, HMM-364 was reactivated at Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Brigade, Fleet Marine Force, Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. On 12 October 1984, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. P. X. Kelley, publicly reactivated the squadron by presenting the unit colors to the Commanding Officer. Now joined in the deployment rotation in 1986, the squadron participated in Team Spirit '86' at Pohang, Korea in support of III Marine Amphibious Force and Republic of Korea Marines.
In January 1988, HMM-364 became the first squadron to receive and successfully deploy the CH-46 SR&M helicopter in the Western Pacific. This enabled the introduction an entirely new aircraft model to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. During this Western Pacific Deployment, in addition to Japan and the Republic of the Philippines, the squadron was deployed to Korea in support of Team Spirit '88.' The end of the year was highlighted by HMM-364 being awarded the Chief of Naval Operation's Safety Award as well as the FMFPac Aviation Safety Award.
In February 1990, the Purple Foxes deployed to Okinawa, Japan participating in numerous Special Operations Capable (SOC) missions as well as supporting Team Spirit '90' with six CH-46 detachments. From August 1990 to March 1991, HMM-364 was placed in reserve during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm becoming the sole supporting squadron for 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade. In June 1991, the Purple Foxes once again deployed to Okinawa. During the deployment, the squadron supported Marine Air Ground Task Force 4-90 in the Republic of the Philippines before, during and after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo as well as supporting exercises Valiant Blitz in Pohang, ROK and Forest Light in Aebano, Japan. While deployed, HMM-364 maintained the highest CH-46 aircraft availability/readiness in the Marine Corps.
Continuing into 1992, the Purple Foxes would find themselves on the island Kauai, for operation Garden Isle, performing humanitarian relief due to the devastation left by Hurricane Iniki. From January to July 1993, the Purple Foxes once again deployed to Okinawa. in addition to supporting the majority of III MEF's Fragmentary Orders, the squadron participated in Team Spirit '93 in the ROK, and also served as the Aviation Combat Element of the 35th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Belleau Wood during Cobra Gold in the Kingdom of Thailand in 1993.
In August 1995, the Purple Foxes packed up and embarked upon the USS Tarawa to move to MCAS El Toro. That same year, HMM-364 was selected to be the Aviation Command Element for Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force Experimental [SPMAGTF (X)] SEA DRAGON. This very important and high visibility project was an exercise conceived of by the Commandant's Warfighting Laboratory (CWL) to develop and test the methods and techniques of the 21st century battlefield.
In February 1996, the Purple Foxes provided Executive Transport for President Clinton and other dignitaries while they toured flood damaged Portland, Oregon. This marked the first time in history that a U.S. President had flown in a Fleet Marine Force helicopter.
Beginning in May 1996, the Purple Foxes began preparatory training with the assigned Ground Combat Element (GCE), 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and the newly formed CSSE Enterprise. In August, HMM-364 was supplemented by elements of HMH-462 as they brought their personnel and six CH-53E aircraft to MCAS El Toro. In January 1997, HMLA-169 personnel completed the ACE. In fact, during preparations for SEA DRAGON operations, crewmembers of an attached UH-1N took the squadron past 25,000 mishap free hours.
The Advanced Warfighting Experiment (AWE) took place at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) at 29 palms and Camp Pendleton. To facilitate this, HMM-364 deployed to MCAS Pendleton in February, where it operated around the clock for three weeks in support of SPMAGTF (X). The AWE culminated in March 1997, validating and elaborating on the findings of the SPMAGTF (X).
In June of 1998 the Purple Foxes were designated the base unit for the ACE of the 13th MEU, embarked aboard the USS Boxer defending American interests overseas, and remained so until June 1999. It was the second Navy and Marine Corps CH-46 Squadron to serve aboard the USS Boxer.
In July, HMM-364 Reinforced participated in RIMPAC '98 while training to the pre-deployment work-up schedule associated with a MEU(SOC) squadron. On December 5, the squadron embarked aboard the USS BOXER and the 13th MEU was underway. The squadron participated in Operation Southern Watch and then provided aircraft to support various operations in the Horn of Africa as the MEU was tasked to perform split-ARG operations. The USS HARPERS FERRY went to Kenya for humanitarian assistance operations while the USS BOXER and the USS CLEVELAND was ordered to "modloc" off the coast of Eritrea for possible NEO operations in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Djibouti.
In February of 1999 the Purple Foxes, reconvened as the MEU, was brought back together and sent to the Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Southern Watch and to conduct training for the Ground Combat Element in Kuwait. The squadron supported both requirements and the MEU began the long journey home in late April. Releasing the attached elements of the MEU composite squadron to their parent units, the Purple Foxes moved into their new home joining Marine Aircraft Group 39 aboard Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton. The Purple Foxes fitting right into their new surroundings at Camp Pendleton, supported Fleet Week, STEEL KNIGHT, and began training to their new core competency of being part of 3rd MAW's Fly In Echelon for contingency operations.
With the new focus of deploying by strategic lift and naval shipping, the Purple Foxes spent much of the next two years supporting Combined Arms Exercises, participating in Combat Readiness Evaluations, and supporting the training of Marines aboard Camp Pendleton. In October of 2000 the squadron embarked aboard the USS PELELIU to maintain proficiency in shipboard operations.
In February of 2001, HMM-364 deployed aboard the USS BONHOMME RICHARD for eleven days, in preparation for EXERCISE KERNEL BLITZ, Sailing to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, where squadron Marines once again honed their proficiency in shipboard operations. From 26 March to 6 April, HMM-364 deployed aboard the USS PELELIU in support of the MEB level exercise Kernel Blitz. Designated the Air Mission Commander and Assault Flight Leader for the final exercise, the Purple Foxes coordinated and led the Airfield Seizure mission in support of 3rd Bn, 5th Marines.
In the summer of 2001, having been assigned to support I MEF's OPLANs, HMM-364 looked toward supporting EXERCISE RSO&I/FOAL EAGLE'02 in the Republic of Korea. As this concept unfolded, a pre-deployment work-up cycle was initiated by deploying to an expeditionary Forward Operating Base at Fort Hunter-Liggett, CA, in support of EXERCISE SEAHORSE WIND. Further workup training was conducted in the form of a combined MCCRE with HMLA-369 at NAF El Centro, STRATMOBEX from March ARB to Edwards AFB, and cold-weather/high altitude training at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, CA. The capstone event was a deployment to the Republic of Korea to participate in the annual RSO&I/ FOAL EAGLE Exercise.
HMM-364 successfully executed this work-up cycle from August 2001 through January 2002 and deployed to Korea from February 2002 to April 2002 in support of RSO&I/FOAL EAGLE'02. During its execution, HMM-364 was the first Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron to deploy using contract Russian AN-124 aircraft, and the first CH-46 squadron to deploy via strategic lift in such large numbers since the Persian Gulf War. The squadron flew missions in support of Special Warfare Command and the Korean Combined Rescue Coordination Center flying counter-SOF and CSAR missions. The squadron returned to MAG-39 in April validating 3rd MAW's HMM TPFDD and establishing a "FOAL EAGLE Life Cycle" for MAG-39 HMMs capable of supporting I MEF's OPLANS.
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