Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 was originally commissioned as Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 364 on 1 September 1961 at Marine Corps Air Facility Santa Ana, Calif. In November 1961, it received its first Sikorsky H-34 helicopter and in February of 1962, the designation of the squadron was changed to its present title.
In the spring of 1962, the squadron participated in Mid-Pacific operations to assist in recovering instruments that had been used in the atomic test program. In November 1963, the squadron deployed to Okinawa and subsequently to Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam. The squadron served in Vietnam until July of 1964. Eight months later the squadron was back in South Vietnam, this time conducting operations, including operations with the Special Landing Force of the Seventh Fleet. HMM-364 remained in Vietnam until September of 1966. The squadron was then placed in cadre status at Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, Calif. and consisted of three officers and 12 enlisted Marines. In March of 1967, the squadron was reorganized and began receiving the new Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters. In October of that year, HMM-364 re-deployed to the Republic of Vietnam, initially at Phu Bai and eventually at Marble Mountain. HMM-364 participated in operations Osceola, Kentucky, Mamaluke Thrust, and Hue City and finally in the evacuation of the embassy in Saigon. For almost half of its short 10-year existence, HMM-364 served in the Republic of Vietnam. It was at this time that the squadron adopted the "Purple Fox" name, partly from the PF unit markings on HMM-364 aircraft, and also on account of a cartoon purple fox mascot called Swifty. During the three tours in Vietnam, the squadron's pilots and crewman flew almost 70,000 hours in combat and combat support missions and were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for meritorious conduct in the performance of duty. As our nation briefly stepped down from its wartime condition in the early 1970s, so did the Foxes. On 22 March 1971, the squadron folded its colors and was decommissioned.
On 28 September 1984, HMM-364 was reactivated at Marine Aircraft Group 24, Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Throughout the 80s and early 90s, the squadron enjoyed many West Pac deployments. The Foxes participated in Team Spirit '86' and '88 at Pohang, Korea in support of III Marine Amphibious Force. In February 1990, the Purple Foxes deployed to Okinawa, participating in numerous Special Operations Capable (SOC) missions and supported Team Spirit '90' together with six CH-46 detachments. From August 1990 to March 1991, HMM-364 was placed in reserve during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, becoming the sole supporting squadron for 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade. In June 1991, the Purple Foxes once again deployed to Okinawa. During the deployment, the squadron supported Marine Air Ground Task Force 4-90 in the Philippines, assisting with the relief efforts following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and participating in joint exercises in Korea and Japan. Early the following year, the Purple Foxes headed for the Hawaiian island of Kauai, performing humanitarian relief due to the devastation left by Hurricane Iniki. From January to July 1993, the Purple Foxes once again deployed to Okinawa. The squadron participated in exercise Team Spirit, Korea, as well as serving as the Aviation Combat Element of the 35th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Belleau Wood during Cobra Gold '93.
In August 1995, the Purple Foxes packed up and embarked upon the USS Tarawa to move to MCAS El Toro. That same year, HMM-364 was selected to be the Aviation Command Element for Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force Experimental [SPMAGTF (X)] SEA DRAGON. This very important and high visibility project was an exercise conceived of by the Commandant's Warfighting Laboratory (CWL) to develop and test the methods and techniques of the 21st century battlefield. In February 1996, the Purple Foxes again made headlines by providing Executive Transport for President Clinton and other dignitaries while they toured flood damaged Portland, Oregon. This marked the first time in history that a U.S. President had flown in a Fleet Marine Force helicopter. In July 1998, HMM-364 (Reinforced), 13th MEU ACE, participated in RIMPAC '98 while training to the pre-deployment work-up schedule associated with a MEU(SOC) squadron. On December 5, the squadron embarked aboard the USS BOXER, participating in Operation Southern Watch and various split-ARG operations off the Horn of Africa, as well as supporting exercise Eager Mace, Kuwait.
In June of 1999 the Purple Foxes returned off deployment and moved into their new home at Marine Aircraft Group 39 aboard Marine Corps Air Station, Camp Pendleton, California. The Purple Foxes began training to their new core competency of being part of 3d MAW's "Fly In" echelon for contingency operations. With the new focus of deploying by strategic lift and naval shipping, the Purple Foxes spent much of the next two years supporting Combined Arms Exercises, participating in Combat Readiness Evaluations and supporting Marine training aboard Camp Pendleton. In October 2000, the squadron embarked aboard the USS Peleliu to maintain proficiency in shipboard operations; later in the deployment, the squadron was also a guest of the USS Bonhomme Richard and USS Peleliu in support of Operation Kernel Blitz.
In the August of 2001, having been assigned to support I MEF, HMM-364 was tasked to support exercise RSO&I/FOAL EAGLE'02. As this concept unfolded, a pre-deployment work-up cycle took place at an expeditionary Forward Operating Base at Fort Hunter-Liggett, CA in support of exercise SEAHORSE WIND. Further workup training was conducted in the form of a combined MCCRE with HMLA-369 at NAF El Centro, STRATMOBEX from March ARB to Edwards AFB, and cold-weather training at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center Bridgeport, CA, all while concurrently standing by for immediate tasking resulting from the events of Sept 11th, 2001. The capstone event was the deployment to the Republic of Korea to participate in the annual RSO&I/ FOAL EAGLE Exercise from January to April 2002. HMM-364 was the first Marine Helicopter Squadron to deploy using contract Russian AN-124 aircraft, as well as via USAF C-5 Strategic Lift. The squadron flew missions in support of Special Warfare Command and the Korean Combined Rescue Coordination Center.
With a desert deployment looming on the horizon, the Purple Foxes sent detachments to Yuma, AZ and Fallon, NV to perfect desert-flying skills in both day and night regimes, as well as support CAX 02-03. Following CAX, the squadron deployed twelve CH-46Es and all squadron personnel to Kuwait. In January 2003, all twelve aircraft were flown from MCAS Camp Pendleton to NAS North Island, "shrink-wrapped", and craned into the hull of the USS Pollux, a USNS Fast Surface Shipping vessel, another first for the transportation of CH-46Es in Marine Corps history. Several squadron Marines were assigned as the security force for the vessel while the Main Body was flown to Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait. By the end of February, the USS Pollux had reached Kuwait and the off-loaded aircraft were flown to Ali Al Salem. In conjunction with MAG-39 and its augments, HMM-364 began mission planning and rehearsals for combat operations against Iraq.
Operation IRAQI FREEDOM commenced on the evening of 20 March 2003, following preliminary strikes by coalition forces. HMM-364 was involved from the first night, supporting attacks by the 1st Marine Division's Regimental Combat Team 7, as well as the British 42nd Commando. Squadron aircrews conducted Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC) missions in direct support of RCT-7 Headquarters for the duration of the war, traveling with the 1st Marine Division from Al Basra to downtown Baghdad. HMM-364 aircraft also flew Logistical Support throughout the theater, flying over 640 hours in combat and direct combat support per month for both March and April. Much positive public recognition was given to the Marines of HMM-364 by the media for their efforts and the actions of Purple Fox aircrews in the four weeks of the war. With the end of hostile operations in Iraq on April 17th, HMM-364 continued to fly CASEVAC and Logistical Support for the Marine Corps humanitarian aid on the behalf of the Iraqi people. After nine months of successful operations in its first combat theater since Vietnam, HMM-364 returned to MCB Camp Pendleton in October of 2003.
The Purple Foxes were destined to see the Iraqi deserts again, this time in support of OIF III. On March 1, 2005, the squadron effected a relief-in-place with HMM-268 at Al Taqaddum, Iraq, thereby assuming the duties of the primary CASEVAC squadron for the troubled Eastern Al Anbar province. Over the course of their seven-month deployment, the Purple Foxes saved over 300 Coalition and civilian lives and performed several multi-aircraft raids in conjunction with various Recon units to seek out insurgents traversing the rural highways south of Fallujah. The uncompromising speed and determination with which the Foxes answer every CASEVAC bell and conduct every raid revived the squadron's decades-old motto, "Give A Shit," which adorns the squadron patch the crews wear in combat.
During OIF 05-07.2, HMM-364 once again assumed the primary CASEVAC role as they effected a relief in place with HMM-268 on 29 August 2006. Throughout the deployment, HMM-364 answered the bell to the toll of 3,911 combat sorties, 2,307 Casualty Evacuations and 6, 373 flight hours. Returning to Camp Pendleton in February 2007, the squadron was ready for a much needed rest over the course of the short eleven months before its next deployment. However, that rest would have to wait as HMM-364's relentless devotion to duty was again on display during the October 2007 California wildfires. Operating with minimal personnel due to base closure, and prior to requests for assistance, HMM-364 readied all squadron aircraft for firefighting operations. The squadron's perseverance helped contain multiple base fires, saved livestock boarded at base stables, and prevented millions of dollars of damage to the San Luis Rey Base Housing community. The technical expertise of HMM-364's maintenance Marines provided critical repairs to malfunctioning fire buckets being utilized by 3d MAW CH-53Es and UH-1Ns.
The squadron deployed to Yuma, Arizona in December 2007 for a Detachment for Training prior to participating in Desert Talon 1-08 as a final preparation for the squadron's return to Al Taqaddum, Iraq. The squadron's main body departed Camp Pendleton on 10 March 2008 and arrived at Al Taqaddum, Iraq shortly after in support of OIF 08.1. The Purple Foxes returned stateside in October 2008. For the remainder of 2008 and the spring of 2009, HMM-364 busied itself by preparing aircrew and aircraft to support the spring 2009 Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course at MCAS Yuma, while continued the steady, deliberate preparation for combat of both refresher pilots joining the squadron from non-flying billets and new pilots reporting to the fleet from the fleet replacement squadron. In addition to flying aircraft, the maintenance department upheld its tradition of fixing aircraft in a highly efficient manner. Throughout this period of extremely high operational-tempo for the maintenance department, it demonstrated its commitment to excellence as it underwent three Aviation Maintenance Inspections (AMI) in as many months from MALS, CNAF, and 3d MAW, earning a mission capable rating on all functional areas and numerous awards for individual Marines. During August 2009, the Purple Foxes of HMM-364 became the first Squadron to deploy to 29 Palms MCAGCC in support of EMV. HMM-364 deployed nine aircraft and completed 397 mishap-free flight hours in simultaneous support of 2d Battalion, 2d Marines and 3d Battalion 24th Marines. Overall, the EMV evaluators and MAWTS-1 instructors gave HMM-364 an outstanding mission-capable report, and reported that the Purple Foxes set the standard for future assault support squadrons during subsequent EMV operations.
From 15 October 2009 to 5 February 2010, HMM-364 was deployed to Al Asad Airbase, Al Anbar, Iraq in support of OIF 09.2, where the squadron's primary role was to provide lift for Very Important Persons (VIP), casualty evacuation (CASEVAC), and general support throughout the MNF-W Area of Operations (AO). This deployment occurred during the retrograde of Marine Corps forces from Iraq. Though a short deployment of only four months, the operational and logistical challenges that HMM-364 faced as ultimately the last Marine Aviation squadron in Iraq ensured it would hold a unique place in the squadron's history. In less than four complete months of flight operations from TOA to total retrograde, HMM-364 moved over 6399 passengers and 139,615 pounds of cargo while servicing 185 VIPs during 2219.7 flight hours. While meeting this steady tasking in the face of a dwindling logistical footprintâ€”including parts and aircraftâ€”the squadron maintained its exceptional safety record and never dropped a mission. Purple Foxes also took responsibility for a retrograde that included a sizeable amount of support equipment and luxury items accumulated over six years of operations by multiple squadrons in a mature theater of operations.
Operating until the end, down to an expeditionary footprint, it was a Purple Fox CH-46E that flew Major General Richard Tryon on 23 January 2010 to the transfer of authority ceremony with the U.S. Army marking end of mission for the U.S. Marine Corps in the nation of Iraq. The squadron then retrograded its aircraft within days via Air Force C-5s and Russian AN-124s, the process pioneered by HMM-364 a decade past.
The squadron is currently at Camp Pendleton preparing to return to the MEU cycle in 2012.