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461 New Patch
HMH-461 Unit insignia
Country United States
Branch Flag of the United States Marine Corps.svg United States Marine Corps
Service history
Active March 15, 1944 - September 1950
January 1957 - present
Role Assault support
Part of Marine Aircraft Group 29
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Nickname "Ironhorse"
"Red Raider" (World War II)
Motto "Mission First, People Always."
Colors CJ
Battles Persian Gulf War

Operation Enduring Freedom

Commanders LtCol Wade J. DunfordMaj Enrique A. AzenonSgtMaj Ronald M. Jenks, Jr.
Current commander Executive OfficerExecutive Officer}
Command Sergeant Major Sergeant MajorSergeant Major

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (HMH-461) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron consisting of CH-53E Super Stallion transport helicopters. The squadron, known as "Ironhorse", is based at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 26 (MAG-26) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW).


Provide timely and effective CH-53E helicopter combat assault transport of heavy equipment, personnel and supplies, on order to support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force and other units, as directed.


Early yearsEdit

VMF-461 WWII Logo

Squadron logo designed by Walt Disney during World War II that was never used.

Marine Fighting Squadron 461 (VMF-461) was founded on March 15, 1944 as part of Marine Base Defense Group 43. It was commissioned at Marine Corps Air Station El Centro, California, and flew the Vought F4U Corsair. The callsign of VMF-461 was the "Red Raider" and their patch depicted a red bearded Viking who was their mascot. In January 1945, the squadron was relocated at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 46 (MAG 46). During 1946 to 1949, VMF-461 was deployed aboard USS Palau, first as part of Marine Aircraft Carrier Group 12, and later, as part of the Atlantic Fleet. Upon return from deployment, VMF-461 was assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 11 at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina. In September 1950, VMF-461 was deactivated.

On January 1957, the squadron was reactivated at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina as Marine Helicopter Transport Squadron (Medium) 461, HMR(M)-461, assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 26. The squadron was equipped as the initial squadron with the HR2S-1 (later to be designated as the CH-37), then the newest and largest helicopter in the Marine Corps inventory. The "Deuce," as it was called, was capable of carrying 26 troops, or 8,000 pounds of cargo at speeds up to 110 knots. The aircraft was powered by two R2800-54 engines and carried a crew of four. As part of the U.S. Space Program in 1961, HMR(M)-461 participated as the primary recovery vehicle for NASA AeroBee Rocket launches at Wallops Island, Virginia In February 1962, HMR(M)-461 was redesignated Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-461 (HMH-461).

While deployed aboard USS Boxer and USS Guadalcanal from 1962 to 1965, HMH-461 participated in various deployments and exercises in the Mediterranean Sea and Caribbean Sea. In February 1966, the squadron was reduced to cadre status to await arrival of the CH-53A helicopter, which replaced the Ch-37. In November 1970, the CH-53A was replaced by the CH-53D helicopter. Throughout the 1970s, HMH-461 continued its support of Fleet Marine operations in such places as the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas, Scandinavia, Northern Europe and Great Britain.

New CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters marked another chapter in HMH-461 history with the first operational flight in October 1987. In September 1988, HMH-461 took delivery of its first lot of eleven CH-53Es from Sikorsky Aircraft.

The 1990sEdit

HMH-461 CH-53 doing external lift in 1997

A CH-53E from HMH-461 doing external lifts during Combined Armed Exercise 6-97 (CAX 6-97).

End of January 1990 around and HMH-461 deployed four aircraft to Combined Arms Exercise (CAX) 3/4-90. During this deployment, two aircraft made Marine Corps aviation history by being the first Marine Corps helicopters to aerial refuel using NVGs.

Deployment started in February 1990 when HMH-461 deployed four aircraft aboard ship to support the presidential visit to the Anti-Drug Summit in Colombia.

Beginning in August 1990 through April 1991, the squadron deployed aboard USS Iwo Jima and headed to the conflict in the Persian Gulf. In January 1991, Detachment Delta launched two aircraft into Somalia for Operation Eastern Exit. In April, after 236 days deployed, HMH-461 returned to New River.

Your Ironhorse Marines again deployed in October 1993 through June 1994 when a detachment of four aircraft left with HMM-362 for contingency operations in Haiti.

They deployed again in May and June 1997 when a detachment from this squadron participated in Operation Guardian Retreival in Congo-Brazzaville. The detachment then conducted a non-combatant evacuation (NEO) in Sierra Leone as part of HMM-261(Rein) which was named Operation Noble Obelisk. The NEO saved U.S., British, and other third-country nationals who were threatened by the Revolutionary United Front.

21st centuryEdit

In June 2003, while deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Africa when on a routine training mission (7) 1000 lbs bombs were dropped on two CH-53Es standing Casevac on Godoria Range by an Air Force B-52. Captain Seth Michaud was killed in the mishap which destroyed both aircraft. In October 2003 HMH-461 retrograded home to MCAS New River.

The Ironhorses, Detachment Bravo, returned home to MCAS New River from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, after being replaced on October 22, 2004, by a new detachment of Marines from HMH-461, also called Detachment Bravo. The unit was deployed for seven months to the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa mission. During that time, the unit flew more than 500 flight hours in support of the CJTF-HOA and performed over 20,000 maintenance hours on the four CH-53E Super Stallions deployed at the facility at the time, two of which were being rotated back and replaced by two brought in by the new detachment.

Sister squadron HMH-464 relieved HMH-461 HOA II Detachment B who then returned home from the Horn of Africa in on May 2, 2005.

More operations began on August 29, 2005 HMH-461 got the order to deploy with 18 hours notice in support of relief operations for Hurricane Katrina. HMH-461 became the parent squadron and formed HMH-461(-)(rein) with Marines and equipment from HMH-464, HMM-365, HMT-302 and HMM 264 to support the Special Marine Air-Ground Task Force operations being conducted in the disaster area. HMH-461 self deployed to NAS Pensacola and started relief operations the next day in New Orleans and Mississippi. After four days working out of NAS Pensacola HMH-461(-)(rein) moved to Keesler Air Force Base and continued relief operations from there. After Hurricane Rita made landfall, HMH-461(-)(rein) started to provide disaster relief to residents of western Louisiana. On 29 Sept 2005, HMH-461(-)(rein) departed Keesler Air Force Base and returned home to MCAS New River.

Sikorsky CH-53E (USMC) HMH-461

A CH-53E flown by HMH-461 Det A attached to HMM-365(REIN) flies over the Red Desert south of Kandahar, Afghanistan in support of Operation Azada Wosa.

HMH-461 aboard USS Wasp 2009

Two CH-53s of HMH-461 aboard USS Wasp, November 2009

Closing out operations and returning home from Hurricane Katrina and Rita, the squadron received a warning order was given to be prepared to embark HMH-461 to go to Mar Del Plata, Argentina to support the President of the United States in support of the 4th Summit of the Americas. Two and a half weeks were spent in Argentina before returning to United States.

Keeping the rotation going, HMH-461 HOA Det B deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti in March 2006 in support of Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa.

Employed again, HMH-461 Det A attached to HMM-365 in August 2007 to support the long range - heavy lift requirements required of the aviation combat element of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 24th MEU later deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in March 2008. On April 28, 2008, HMH-461 personnel led the insertion of 1st Battalion 6th Marines(-) in multiple waves and divisions behind enemy lines in Garmsir, Afghanistan in support of Operation Azada Wosa. The detachment also succeeded in demonstrating the first successful employment of Low Cost Low Altitude Aerial Resupply from the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter delivering much needed supplies to an outlying Forward Operating Base. They were also responsible for transporting numerous VIPs into the objective area in Garmsir as well as numerous FOBs in Helmand Province. VIPs who were transported include the United States Secretary of the Navy, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and both the Commandant of the Marine Corps and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. The Marines of HMH-461 Det A continued to support the assault support and heavy lift requirements of the 24th MEU operating in the volatile Helmand Province of Afghanistan until they all returned home safely in November 2008.

On January 2009, HMH-461 detached another set of Marines to support operations in the Horn of Africa.

US Navy 060328-N-0411D-019 A CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron Four Six One (HMH-461) maneuvers for a fuel hose pick-up over the Gulf of Tadjoura, during air-to-air refueling practice

HMH-461 helicopter during air-to-air refueling practice

Notice came again to deploy in June 2009 with five days warning in order to support Operation Jupiter Sentinal. The squadron rapidly embarked 4 aircraft and all available Ironhorse Marines aboard the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) which quickly started steaming towards the Ghanan coast to support President Barack Obama's visit to Accra and Cape Coast Castle. In January 2010 the squadron was mobilized at short notice and transported the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit to aid relief efforts in Haiti after the recent devastating earthquake (Operation Unified Response).[1]

More recently, the squadron was deployed to Afghanistan in January 2013.[2]

Unit awardsEdit

A unit citation or commendation is an award bestowed upon an organization for the action cited. Members of the unit who participated in said actions are allowed to wear on their uniforms the awarded unit citation. HMH-461 has been presented with the following awards:

Streamer Award Year(s) Additional Info
Navy Unit Commendation streamer (USMC) Navy Unit Commendation Streamer with one Bronze Star

Meritorious Unit Commendation (Navy-Marine) Streamer Meritorious Unit Commendation Streamer

Streamer WWII V World War II Victory Streamer 1941–1945 Pacific War
Streamer NDS National Defense Service Streamer with three Bronze Stars 1950–1954, 1961–1974, 1990–1995, 2001–present Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, War on Terror
Streamer AFE Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamer 1992–1993 Somalia
Streamer SAS Southwest Asia Service Streamer with three Bronze Stars

Streamer gwotE Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Streamer

Global War on Terrorism Service Medal streamer Global War on Terrorism Service Streamer 2001–present

See alsoEdit


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