Beginning of the End……..

Today marked another step for the decommissioning of an old warrior. The first time it took to the sky was in August of 1962, 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 8 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 5 CH-46’s 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-46’s to be replaced by the new MV-22 Osprey’s, 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.

Douglas Aguillard

Douglas (Doug) Aguillard is a Freelance Photojournalist who specializes in the Military & Aviation fields. Based in San Diego, CA, he is a Marine veteran., He currently is a photojournalist for the Military Press Newspaper, the Historical / Archival Dept. photographer for the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum at MCAS Miramar, and a very proud member of Photo Recon, and has been published in various magazines and books such as "Combat Aircraft Monthly" magazine, "Vertical " magazine, "Wings of Gold" magazine, Sikorsky Frontlines newsletter, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum's Book: "Celebrating the San Diego Air & Space Museum: A History of the Museum and it's collections".

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