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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, unfurl the squadron's new organizational colors during an 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)(Released)

Photo by Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

HMM-161 transforms into VMM-161

8 Oct 2009 | Cpl. Christopher O'Quin

After spending 58 years transporting troops, casualties and supplies, one of the Corps’ oldest helicopter squadrons retired its colors and established itself as the West Coast’s first tiltrotor squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Oct. 8.

As part of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161’s history came to a close when the command unfurled new colors for Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 161, who will fly the MV-22, “Osprey.”

Lt. Col. Thomas C. Euler relinquished his command of HMM-161 to Lt. Col. Evan G. LeBlanc as part of the ceremony.

“It’s a humbling experience,” said LeBlanc, who is the first commanding officer of VMM-161. “You just hope you have the awareness to enjoy the moment.”

His experience with the Osprey dates back almost a decade. LeBlanc served with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Training Squadron 204 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C., as the MV-22 fleet project team officer and the director of aircrew training systems. He also served in Marine Tiltrotor Test and Evaluation Squadron 22, participating in the operational evaluation of the MV-22.

Euler will work at 3rd MAW operations as part of a transition team for new aircraft making their way into 3rd MAW, including the Osprey, UH-1Y “Venom,” AH-1Z “Viper” and other future aircraft.

“It’s been a great honor and a privilege being the last commanding officer of HMM-161,” said Euler. “Some of my fondest memories I have with the squadron come from working with the Marines, especially on our last deployment.”

The squadron, also known as the “Greyhawks,” will receive its first Ospreys early next year. Some of the squadron’s crew chiefs and aerial observers are currently receiving indoctrination training at MCAS New River, while 10 CH-46E “Sea Knight” pilots are training to fly the aircraft.

“At the minimum, I spend 14 to 15 hours each day training for the Osprey,” said Capt. Art Guzman, a CH-46E pilot with the squadron. “Even though I’ve been exposed to flying for quite a bit of time, the systems are completely different so you have to re-learn some new things with the nomenclature, the names and the computer system.”

Although the days of flying Sea Knights are over for one of the oldest helicopter squadrons in the Marine Corps, the Greyhawks will add to their legacy with new aircraft for many years to come.

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3rd Marine Aircraft Wing