Chinook News
Transformational

Greyhawks trade old wings for new

By Lance Cpl. Manuel F. Guerrero, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

Lt. Col. Evan G. LeBlanc, the first commanding officer of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, and Sgt. Maj. Thomas M. Herman, the squadron sergeant major, prepare to unfurl the squadron's new organizational colors during their activation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Oct. 8. The squadron has gone through numerous transformations, first created as Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron 161 in 1951 and later designated as Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron Light 161 in 1956 and then as Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 in 1962.(Official U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher O'Quin)

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

Osprey

USMC Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Epright

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 will transition into a Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron, VMM-161, by January 2010 aboard the air station.

The transition will be the first for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, as the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing has conducted multiple CH-46D “Sea Knight” to MV-22 Osprey transitions. The squadron will receive 12 aircraft by the project’s completion.

All the transitions on the East Coast have gone well, and the squadron will bring their knowledge and experience with them. The Osprey transition is a continued progression of the Marine Corps, commented Maj. Berch Abbott, MV-22 transition training unit officer for the “Greyhawks.”

The MV-22 Osprey is more technologically advanced than the CH-46D “Sea Knight” and its mission is assault support. The squadron will split pilots into three groups. It will have experienced pilots from other VMM squadrons, freshly trained Osprey pilots and Sea Knight pilots. The pilots will all be trained to operate the Osprey, commented Berch.

Osprey

Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Grant Ammon

“The transition has been on track and the maintainers and aircrew are very excited about the Osprey. Everybody is looking forward the new challenge,” said Berch. “The Osprey is going to bring some unique capabilities to the wing.”

The plan for the Marine Corps is to transition a couple CH-46 squadrons per year, said Abbott.

Not only is the squadron in a state of transition, so is the hangar that will house it. The new modifications are to accommodate the incoming Osprey size. Since construction began, the Soltek Pacific Construction employees have extended the hangar by 60 feet, made the extended portion of the hangar’s roof 65 feet tall, and updated the electrical and fire safety units.

“We are renovating the hangar because the dimensions of the Osprey are more complex than the other helicopters here,” said John Robbins, the project manager. “We are also giving the building all new infrastructures and adding power to the hangar because of the Osprey’s technical system.”

Because HMM-161 and HMM-166 still occupy the hangar, the construction crew had to split the $19 million project into two phases. By August 11, they will complete phase one, which is 60 percent of the hangar. After that, the squadron and construction workers will trade spaces so phase two can commence. Once completed, the hangar will be able to house six Ospreys.

The Greyhawks will remain with the same name but will have new wings next year. (Aug. 2009)