Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (VMM-164), is a United States Marine Corps tiltrotor squadron operating the MV-22B Osprey and known as the “Knightriders”.
Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164 (HMM-164) was activated under LtCol Herbert J. Blaha on July 1, 1964 at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Ana, California as part of Marine Air Group 36. In August 1965, the squadron transferred to Marine Wing Support Group 37 at Marine Air Station El Toro, California. The squadron received the first CH-46 Sea Knights assigned to West Coast duty six months after activation.
HMM-164 brought the first CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters into Vietnam when they landed at Marble Mountain Air Facility after transitioning from the USS Valley Forge (LPH-8) in March 1966. HMM-164 remained in Vietnam for a three and one-half years as part of Marine Aircraft Group 16 (MAG-16). During their time in country they operated in and around the following areas: Quang Tri, Dong Ha, Khe Sanh, Hue, Phu Bai, and off the deck of USS Princeton (LPH-5), the USS Tripoli (LPH-10), and the Valley Forge. While in Vietnam, HMM-164 supported US forces in all of the major operations, most notable in Operation Hastings and Operation Meade River. On July 15, 1966 while conducting the initial insertion during Operation Hastings the squadron lost three CH-46A Sea Knights in the vicinity of L2 Crow near Con Thien. Two aircraft crashed when their rotor blades intermeshed while trying to avoid Marines on the ground and the third crash was caused by heavy ground fire.
In October 1969, the squadron left Vietnam and relocated to Okinawa, Japan where it joined Marine Corps Aircraft Group 15 (MAG-15). From October 1969 through April 1972, it deployed with elements of the United States Seventh Fleet as part of a special landing force. HMM-164 supported combat and search and rescue operations off the coast of Vietnam until April 1972 when it deployed aboard the USS Okinawa (LPH-3). While aboard the Okinawa, continued to provide Joint Service combat support in Operation Son Than and Operation Lam Son 719 until returning to Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa in 1973.
After the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam and the squadron’s subsequent transfer to Marine Aircraft Group 36 (MAG-36), HMM-164 participated in numerous peacetime operations aboard naval shipping travelling to Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, and Japan as well as many exercises in Okinawa. A detachment from the squadron participated in the evacuation of Americans from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on April 12, 1975 as part of Operation Eagle Pull. On April 30, 1975, an HMM-164 CH-46D crew lifted the last Americans out of Vietnam when they picked up the Marine combined security force during Operation Frequent Wind.
With the advent of the Unit Deployment Program, on September 1, 1978, HMM-164 returned home to MCAS Santa Ana, California. In September 1978, the squadron rejoined Marine Aircraft Group 36 (MAG-36) at MCAS(H) Futenma for a six-month tour beginning in August 1979 and returning to MCAS(H) Tustin in February 1980. On November 1, 1980, HMM-164 became the first unit on the West Coast to receive the “E” model CH-46. By March 1981, the squadron had received its full complement of “Echo” helicopters. During the summer of 1989, the squadron simultaneously supported oil spill cleanup efforts in Valdez, Alaska and an Air Contingency Force at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.
In June 1990, HMM-164 Deployed to the Western Pacific with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (13th MEU) and provided support relief efforts following the July earthquake that devastated the Philippines. In August 1990, the squadron proceeded to Southwest Asia and participated in maritime interdiction operations during Operation Desert Shield and the provided combat support during Operation Desert Storm before returning to MCAS Tustin in April 1991.
The squadron deployed in October 1992 with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (15th MEU). The squadron provided support to Joint Task Force (Somalia) during Operation Restore Hope from December 1992 until February 1993. HMM-164 returned to MCAS Tustin in April 1993. August 1993 found the squadron providing support for units training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center, Bridgeport, California and provided a mission capabilities demonstration for the secretary of the Navy. In August 1993, the Marine Corps Aviation Association chose HMM-164 as the Medium Helicopter Squadron of the year.
In June 1995, HMM-164 deployed as Aviation Combat Element with the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (11th MEU). During this time, it provided support for the United States Central Command during Operation Vigilant Sentinel in Kuwait as well as well Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates before returning and relocating to MCAS El Toro, California in December 1995.
In February 1996, HMM-164 was called upon to support the President of the United States as he visited the flood-ravaged areas around Portland, Oregon.
On August 28,1997, HMM-164 (REIN) deployed again with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. During the month of December 1997 and January 1998, the squadron’s AV-8B Harrier IIs and Hercules flew combat sorties in support of Operation Southern Watch over Southern Iraq. Hmm-164 (REIN) returned to MCAS EL Toro on February 26, 1998, completing its final deployment before re-designation as a Fleet Replacement Squadron.
On January 8, 1999, HMM-164 relocated to MCAS Camp Pendleton California as part of the Base Replacement and Closure (BRAC) move and was attached to MAG-39 effective January 11. In February 1999, the squadron was re-designated HMMT-164 and was tasked to become the Marine Corps Fleet Replacement Squadron for the CH-46E.
During March 1999, the squadron deployed two aircraft to Moffett Federal Airfield to support Operation Urban Warrior and accepted its first wo student pilots. In May, the Marine Established Aircrew Training Department accepted its first class of new enlisted aircrew. On June 1, 1999, the squadron took over the role as Model Manager and Fleet Project Manager for the CH-46E. Since 2000, HMMT-164 has trained 360 new pilots and 460 crew chiefs.
On June28, 2008, HMMT-164 deployed to Naval Air Station Lemoore after California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger requested military assistance to fight wildfires. The helicopters are providing medium lift rotary wing support to United States Northern Command and the National Fire Center.
On April 9, 2015, HMMT-164 officially retired the CH-46E and transitioned to the MV-22B Osprey. In doing so they became the final active duty CH46E squadron to transition to the MV22B. As part of the transition, they became a fleet squadron rather than a training squadron and so were re-designated as VMM-164.
After the retiring of the CH-46E, HMMT-164 was officially designated as Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164 (VMM-164). Since then, VMM-164 has amassed many first-time achievements. The squadron accepted its MV-22B Osprey aircraft (03/BUNO 165847) in July of 2015. In October of 2015, the squadron was designated as “Safe for Flight” and began flying its first training missions. In June 2016, the squadron successfully completed its first MALS inspection with commendatory, above-average marks. In August of 2016, VMM-164 completed its first full squadron Deployment for Training to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. In October of 2016, VMM-164 supported its first Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course in Yuma, Arizona, with two aircraft, six pilots and crew chiefs, and a contingent of 22 maintainers and clerks from each shop in the squadron. Throughout the spring of 2017, the squadron underwent a Commander Naval Air Forces Aviation Maintenance Inspection on which it received unprecedentedly high scores, culminating in its achievement of Full Operational Capable status. From then until April 2018, the Knightriders were heavily engaged in pre-deployment training exercises and evaluations including Integrated Training Exercise 2-18, Certificate Exercise, and another Commander Naval Air Forces Aviation Maintenance Inspection. The squadron’s successful completion of these milestones enabled its smooth transition into its first operational deployment in 20 years as part of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command 18.2 as the dedicated assault support force in Central Command’s Area of Responsibility while based at Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait. After six months of honing critical skillsets and overcoming friction during the execution of many combat assault support missions, the Knightriders returned home to Camp Pendleton in October 2018.
In the early months of 2019, VMM-164 was officially tasked to become are of the Aviation Combat Element within the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). The focus of flight operations was now focused on MEU-oriented training and proficiency. The squadron participated in large scale exercises such as Joint Exercise Pacific Blitz 19.2, Mountain Exercise, and Summer Fury, integrating forces and functions within 3d MAW, I MEF, and the United States Navy. In June 2019, the squadron underwent a Commanding General Inspection designed to assess the over effectiveness of the vital programs within the unit. The Knightriders demonstrated astute preparedness and excellence at all levels during the inspection. VMM-164 composited with HMLA-267 and HMH-465 to become VMM-164 (REIN) in May 2020. The squadron executed MEU preparation exercises from June to October 2020. The 15th MEU, while embarked aboard the USS Makin Island, USS San Diego, and USS Somerset, began its deployment in November 2020. The squadron participated in Operation OCTAVE QUARTZ from December 2020 to January 2021, Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, Operation PURPLE DRAGON, Theater Amphibious Combat Rehearsal, Iron Defender, and Northern Edge. These operations demonstrated the vast capability of Marine Corps Aviation to integrate with other U.S. and partner forces from aboard amphibious naval ships. After the seven-month deployment, the Knightriders returned to Camp Pendleton in May 2021.