Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton -- As time goes by, rules, ideas and even traditions are subject to change at any given moment. The Marine Corps, over the years, has gone through many changes to either enhance fighting capabilities or to evolve as a rapid reaction military force.
On Feb 20, 2013, Eight Marines with Medium Helicopter Training Squadron received their wings and became aircrew chiefs. Unfortunately with this momentous occasion, came the realization that the CH-46 Sea Knight that these new chiefs trained on will no longer be utilized by the Marine Corps.
"We are here to recognize these eight Marines as the last aircrew chiefs to graduate using the CH-46," said Maj Gen. Steve Busby, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Air Wing. "These Marines are now responsible for continuing the legacy of this aircraft and are now forever a part of history."
The mission of the CH-46 is to provide helicopter transport of personnel, supplies and equipment for the landing force. Its primary task is to transport Marine Corps troops to designated areas and since 1964, Marines have ensured that the CH-46's primary mission was upheld.
It's now the end of the CH-46 era and its passing affects many different parties. Busby, an Akron, Oh., native, has had a lot of experiences with the CH-46.
"I've had a lot of memories with this helicopter," said Busby. "I've been on two deployments with this helicopter and during the tsunami effort, I was on this thing almost every day witnessing the destruction the tsunami had caused."
Marines were not the only ones who were impacted by this event. Melei Nguyen Kelly and her mother Thai Nguyen are some of the many people who this helicopter has affected by accomplishing its primary mission.
"It's very sad to see them go," said Kelly. "It reminds us of when we first came to this country on them. The man taking me said to look down from the helicopter and he said that it will be the last time I see my country."
A 12-year-old Kelly and her mother were transported from Vietnam to the United States on April 27, 1975 on CH-46s to escape, what was then, a hostile environment during the Vietnam War.
The CH-46 Sea Knight will be replaced by the MV-22 Osprey in the near future. Although the CH-46 will not be utilized, Marines who have operated it and others who have been helped by it will forever remember what the CH-46 has done for them.