MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. (April 18, 2013) -- Marines moved two historical aircraft from the flight line to their permanent display location on Roosevelt Boulevard near the front gate of the air station April 12.
One is an HH-46D Sea Knight used in the past by Marine Transport Squadron 1 as a search and rescue helicopter, and the other is an EA-6B Prowler that has been in the Marine Corps since 1977.
CH and HH-46D model aircraft have been used by the U.S. military since the 1960’s as medium-lift helicopters transporting troops and supplies. The display helicopter made its last flight Dec. 7, 2007.
“The Delta has been flying since Vietnam and it was the workhorse of the Navy and Marine Corps for a number of decades,” said Sgt. Jesse F. Conger, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing ground training chief, who was the rescue swimmer on the helicopter’s last flight. “That (aircraft), you could argue, was basically the staple of Marine aviation for years by taking troops into combat.”
Currently, the Marine Corps is in the final phases of replacing all CH-46 squadrons with MV-22B Ospreys, which will take their place as the Corps’ primary medium-lift asset. VMR-1, however, will remain unique in the Marine Corps in that they will keep the HH-46 for the foreseeable future.
Gunnery Sgt. Timothy G. Stickel Jr., an MV-22B crew chief currently stationed at Miramar, Calif., was the crew chief on the display’s last flight. He said the “Pedro” search and rescue aircraft are important to the local community.
“I believe Pedro is such a landmark to civilians because they’ve helped find locals who were lost in the forest or were having issues out at sea, or even just picking them up at a car wreck,” said Stickel. “Pedro has always been a part of that community in Havelock and New Bern. That asset is almost always available because when civilian medevacs cannot fly, Pedro would fly.”
The Prowler on display has a history just as long. It was the first EA-6B accepted into the Marine Corps inventory. It is also unique because it is the only EA-6B to remain in the Marine Corps inventory for its entire career.
“When an aircraft is done being (maintenanced at Fleet Readiness Centers), it will either go to the Marine Corps or the Navy depending who needs aircraft to fill real-world requirements,” said David J. Peel, an aircraft coordinator for Marine Aircraft Group 14. “Many times the Navy was in need of jets, but we worked it out where we’ve given them a different jet so we could keep this one in the Marine Corps. We wanted one to call our own.”
During its 34-year career, the EA-6B flew with all four Marine tactical electronic warfare squadrons here and spent more than 15 years forward deployed in support of nearly every conflict in which Marine Prowlers have served.
“It’s been in pretty much every conflict that MAG-14 has been involved in since back in Desert Storm, Operation Denied Flight, the Balkans in the 90’s, up through Operations Southern Watch and Northern Watch in Iraq, to Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation Enduring Freedom,” said William Flannery, EA-6B requirements analyst for Marine Aircraft Group 14 and retired Prowler pilot.
The Prowler community is tight-knit on Cherry Point because all four squadrons are stationed here. One day Prowlers will face the same fate as the CH-46, but the community will remain. Flannery hopes the display keeps memories alive long afterward.
“It will be on display for many years to come when we’re not flying the Prowler anymore,” said Flannery. “People will still look at it and people will still be able ask, ‘what was that aircraft and what did they do?’ and having that there will keep that fresh in a lot of people’s minds for a long time to come.”