Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 marked another step for the decommissioning of an old warrior. The first time it took to the sky was in August of 1962 and the Boeing Vertol CH-46 Sea Knight has gone on to serve the United States Marines for over 50 years. A medium twin-turbine troop/cargo assault helicopter, it was produced from 1962-1971.
Here at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, in Southern California, the last graduating class of Crew Chiefs was taking place, as eight young Marines received their wings from Major General Steven Busby, Commanding General, Third Marine Aircraft Wing. These young Marines have many duties assigned to them as Crew Chiefs. They are responsible for the maintenance and operation of their CH-46, but they can also man a machine gun or perform rescues in a combat situation.
There were many stories to be told today as the General pinned on the wings to these young Marines chest. Behind the Marines, was number 00 of HMMT-164 (The Knightriders), the oldest helicopter still flying in the Marine Corps arsenal. She first served in Vietnam as early as 1966, and proudly served in Quange Tri Province, and was a survivor of Operation Hastings, known for five CH-46s being shot down in a place soon to be called “Helicopter Valley.” 00 reportedly had over 100 bullet holes in her air frame, but still flew home safely with her Marines. Also present during the Graduation ceremony was an older Vietnamese woman, who was one of the refugees flown out of Vietnam by 00 at the end of the war.
There is no set date for the last of the Ch-46s to be replaced by the new MV-22 Ospreys, and when these warriors are finally retired, these new Crew Chiefs will return to school, so they can learn the Osprey as they will learn their Sea Knights.
I would like to thank the Public Affairs Office and it’s staff at MCAS Miramar for granting permission to cover this story. It’s truly appreciated.