'Ugly Angels' Fly Again After Wings Clipped Six Years Ago

Col. Craig Leflore, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, addresses the audience during the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 362 activation ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., on Aug. 17. Previously, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 362 operated as a CH-53D Sea Stallion unit from April 30, 1952, to Nov. 30, 2012. The unit reactivated as VMM-362 and will employ the MV-22B Osprey. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)
Col. Craig Leflore, commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, addresses the audience during the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 362 activation ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., on Aug. 17. Previously, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 362 operated as a CH-53D Sea Stallion unit from April 30, 1952, to Nov. 30, 2012. The unit reactivated as VMM-362 and will employ the MV-22B Osprey. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Anaya)

A new squadron of MV-22B Ospreys has been activated at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, marking the end of a modernization transition for Marine aviation and the return of a historic unit to active flight status.

When the Corps deactivated Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362 in 2012, it wasn't clear if -- or when -- the "Ugly Angels" would return.

"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," said Lt. Col. Christopher Oliver, the Ugly Angel's commanding officer at the squadron's deactivation in 2012.

The Ugly Angels have a long history. The helicopter squadron was commissioned in 1952 and was the first to deploy to Vietnam, where, beginning in 1962, it flew the workhorse UH-34 "Huss," an aircraft remembered fondly by Vietnam-era Marines.

After returning stateside for a few years, the Ugly Angels flew the Huss continuously in Vietnam from September 1965 until August 1969.

Dick Moser flew with the Ugly Angels in Vietnam from 1966 to 1967. He attended the reactivation ceremony at Miramar recently.

"It's really moving," he said, remarking on seeing his old squadron fly again. "The young men and women are really embracing our history. We're delighted to see them back."

In 1969, the squadron left Vietnam and was re-equipped with then-new CH-53 Sea Stallions, which it flew for the next 43 years.

Decades later, the Ugly Angels became the last Marine squadron to fly the CH-53D Sea Stallion in combat, in Afghanistan in 2012. At the end of its life, the Sea Stallion required about 20 hours of maintenance for every hour of flight. The Marines retired the Sea Stallion, and the Ugly Angels were grounded.

In the Corps, the transition from older helicopter aircraft to the new tilt-rotor Ospreys began in 2005. With the reactivation of the Ugly Angels -- now designated a Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron -- the Marines' 14-year transition is almost complete.

VMM-362 is the next-to-last Osprey squadron being activated by the Corps.

The Osprey requires pilots to be multi-skilled, according to 2nd Lt. Fredrick Walker, a spokesman for the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

"To fly the Osprey successfully, a pilot must think like -- and have the skill sets of -- both a fixed-wing and rotary-wing pilot," he said.

The Ospreys are not replacing heavy helicopters in the service completely. The CH-53E Super Stallion is still flown by several squadrons, and the CH-53K King Stallion is under development.

Walker said the Ugly Angels would be fully outfitted with its complement of Ospreys by 2020.

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This article is written by Andrew Dyer from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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