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MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII, Kaneohe Bay -- The Marines and sailors of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 flew their squadron’s colors one last time during their deactivation ceremony between Hangars 101 and 102, Nov. 30.
The tents were set, the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific Band played its familiar tunes, and the sun draped the backs of those in formation for the farewell of the “Ugly Angels.”
“It is a bittersweet ceremony,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Oliver, commanding officer, HMH-362. “I’m trying to smile on the outside, but I’m hurting on the inside.”
Oliver has served with the Ugly Angels twice in his Marine Corps career, once as a captain in 2000, and currently as a lieutenant colonel.
To date, the Ugly Angels have earned various awards, changed their name several times and accomplished many missions, which include deployments to Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. Col. Paul L. Fortunato, commanding officer, Marine Aircraft Group 24, described each unit member as someone who “performed with precision, pride and excellence — (HMH-362 is) an outstanding squadron through and through.”
“(To) the Marines and sailors of HMH-362, commander of troops (Lt.) Col. Oliver, Sgt. Maj. Tackett, thank you,” Fortunato said. “The parade, the ceremony, (and) the Marines looked absolutely ugly and absolutely wonderful.”
The squadron was first activated April 30, 1952, in Santa Ana, Calif.
The Marines and sailors of HMH-362 earned the nickname “Archie’s Angels,” referring to Lt. Col. Archie Clapp, the squadron commanding officer at the time, and eventually they would become the “Ugly Angels.” The squadron became a part of Marine Corps Base Hawaii in 1995.
In August, HMH-362 was the last squadron to use the CH-53D Sea Stallion before the aircraft was retired. The Ugly Angels flew them in one last mission while deployed to Afghanistan. But Oliver said he was most proud of another mission the Ugly Angels took on this deployment. In June, a group of reconnaissance Marines was being attacked but were lacking in ammunition. Despite poor visibility in the sky that day, Oliver said the “quality training program” of the Ugly Angels helped them complete the mission.
Oliver and Sgt. Maj. Timothy C. Tackett carefully rolled up the squadron’s colors, shielding the precious fabric from the elements with a black cover. As the color guard marched away from the formation, the colors encased and no longer waving freely, Oliver stood alone, and rendered his last salute.
“I’ve been extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to be the current last CO of the Ugly Angels but my sincere hope is that I’m not the last CO,” Oliver said. “Hopefully the future of the Marine Corps is bright with new aircraft coming online. Someday, when they have more CH-53Ks coming off the line and are not sure what to do, hopefully they’ll call the Ugly Angels again, bring us back out and activate us.”