MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. --
Many Marines pour themselves into books to learn about the history and traditions of the Marine Corps, but for one Marine Corps Air Station Miramar squadron, history paid them a visit.
Three former members of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 visited Jan. 25 to see how the “White Knights” continue to make history.
Two of the visitors are original White Knights who worked in the squadron when it was established during the Vietnam War on July 1, 1965.
“We were 19 years old working dark to dark,” said Jim Lowery, a Vietnam veteran and original White Knight. “We flew missions during the day and patched and worked on the aircraft at night.”
In the eyes of Lowery and Ron Rodrigues, another original White Knight, not much has changed since they served with the squadron.
The CH-46 Helicopter looks the same as it did in 1965, only there was less wiring through the cabin of the CH-46A compared to the CH-46E, explained Rodrigues.
“Also the floor wasn’t bolted down,” said Lowery. “Back then we had to pull the floor matting up and wash the helicopter out. Otherwise it would be too heavy to fly.”
Both Lowery and Rodrigues worked on the airframes but also flew on missions as aerial gunners.
At that time when a flight was going out, they just asked each other who wanted to fly, explained Rodrigues. There were designated crew chiefs, but everyone was air crew.
The veterans visited the airframes shop where they worked during their time with the squadron. They told stories about being in Vietnam and how they had to fix the aircraft. The current airframes Marines also learned that Lowery and Rodrigues created the original White Knight crest that the squadron still uses today.
The third visitor, Ingo Hentschel, served with the White Knights during the 1980s.
“Marines from (HMM-165) are the only ones I keep in touch with out of all the units I served with during my time in the Corps,” Hentschel said.
The unit cohesion still seems the same as it did in the 80s, he explained.
One change Hentschel couldn’t miss was the technological enhancements of the night vision goggles.
“The vision tubes were constantly burning out,” Hentschel said. “Every flight it seemed like we would end up with one working pair, and that pair was given to one of the pilots so he could still see where we were going.”
Though times have changed, one thing remains the same for the White Knights.
“We’re still doing the same things these guys did 20 or 30 years ago,” said Lt. Col. Todd Oneto, the squadron commanding officer, referring to the maintenance and flying of the aircraft.
From Vietnam to Afghanistan, the White Knights carry their history with them as they support the needs of the Corps.