MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
The last eight crew chiefs to earn their flight designations in the CH-46 Sea Knight graduated aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 20.
Marines and families watched as four Sea Knights carrying these historical flight aids landed on the flight line and exited the aircraft to graduate and earn their wings.
“We are here to recognize the eight Marines standing before you for their great achievements as the last (Sea Knight) crew chiefs the Corps is going to train,” said Maj. Gen. Steven Busby, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. “This day marks the end of an era in Marine Corps Aviation. This aircraft has been the main stay of the aerial support community for 48 years. Half the time Marine Corps aviation has been in existence, the Sea Knight has been taking the fight to the enemy.”
After several months at other job schools learning other skills, these eight Marines came to learn how to fly in Sea Knights at Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164 “Knight Riders.”
“The schooling was about 6 months long,” said Lance Cpl. Alex Sosa III, the CH-46 Sea Knight crew chief honor graduate with the Knight Riders and a Richmond, Texas native. “We learned all we had to, ensuring our aircraft stay in the sky – and how to properly assist the pilots with whatever it is they may need from us while we were here. It was a great experience.”
As the honor graduate, Sosa earned the best grades out of all of his peers, and according to Busby, made it look easy.
As the Sea Knight is phased out by the Marine Corps, the legacy it leaves behind is one of notable service above all else. Even Busby had experiences and feelings to share about this momentous occasion in the history of Marine Corps aviation.
“This aircraft has been at the center of Marine Corps aviation since its arrival in 1964,” explained Busby. “I spent a few weeks working aboard these aircraft as the commander of the special purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force in Thailand and Indonesia after the tsunami hit in 2004. I remember flying over 120 miles of coast line in Indonesia with these ‘Battle Phrogs,’ and seeing the ferocity at which they attacked their mission of delivering supplies and aid to the Indonesian people.”
As one of the members of the final class of CH-46 crew chiefs to graduate, Sosa described his feelings as the event came to an end.
“It feels like I’m a part of history now,” said Sosa. “To me, that’s a great thing because I love the Sea Knight community, I love flying, and I can’t wait to show what I can do as a crew chief.”
As these newly graduated crew chiefs travel to their first permanent duty stations, they said they will forever remember the day they took part in the Sea Knight legacy.