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    Marines bid 'aloha' to Phrog: Pacific Aviation Museum hosts ceremony for CH-46E Sea Knight

    Marines bid 'aloha' to Phrog: Pacific Aviation Museum hosts ceremony for CH-46E Sea Knight

    Photo By Kristen Wong | Service members and civilians attended a sunset ceremony honoring the CH-46E Sea...... read more read more



    Story by Kristen Wong 

    Marine Corps Base Hawaii

    FORD ISLAND, Hawaii — Active and retired service members took pictures and reminisced in front of a lone CH-46E Sea Knight, standing in front of Hangar 79 at the Pacific Aviation Museum, Nov. 6, 2014.

    Military personnel and guests gathered to say goodbye as the Marine Corps phases out the “Phrog” by 2015. Coincidentally, the Marines of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 364 took their last flight with the CH-46E at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton Oct. 29. Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164 will retire its Sea Knights in April 2015, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774 will follow later in the year.

    The Sea Knight at the ceremony was one of two that came to Hawaii via the USS Peleliu during the 2014 Rim of the Pacific exercise, June 25. The second Sea Knight is at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and will eventually join the static aircraft displays by the base front gate.

    The CH-46 Sea Knight was introduced in the 1960s, and used by the Purple Foxes of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, which was re-designated in October as VMM-364. Several models were used, including the most recent CH-46E Sea Knight. The CH-46E is 84 feet, 4 inches long and weighs more than 12,000 pounds. The aircraft is capable of carrying more than 11,000 pounds of supplies or personnel.

    “(The Sea Knight is) absolutely a tremendous aircraft, very well designed,” said Capt. Ed Romagnoli, a UH-1Y pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 attending the ceremony. “As old as it was it has some design features that are still more impressive than some of the new aircraft that we have now. It’s going to be missed by the Marine Corps as a reliable, dependable platform.”

    Romagnoli, of Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., flew a CH-46E from September 2009 through July 2012 when he was stationed with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 268 at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. While flying the Sea Knight, Romagnoli said the unit accomplished many missions such as fast-rope rappelling and combat resupply.

    As the Marine Corps redesigned the Sea Knight over the years, the aircraft became heavier and used more fuel. As a result, the Marines had to plan more carefully when it came to carrying troops or supplies. He said pilots would have to sacrifice either amount of time in an area or how much cargo they could take. Romagnoli said he can take his experiences working with the CH-46 and apply them to his missions as he flies UH-1Y Hueys. Romagnoli said although the MV-22 Osprey is officially replacing the Sea Knight, the UH-1Y Huey will also provide support in missions.

    “Together they’re going to fill the gap that’s left by the 46s,” Romagnoli said.

    Lt. Gen. John Toolan, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific commanding general, thanked the Pacific Aviation Museum for hosting the ceremony.

    “I don’t know much about the Phrog’s specifications,” Toolan said. “(But) I can tell you a lot about the feeling of an infantryman when he hears that Phrog coming overhead. In most cases he knows he going to get out of a hotspot ... Those Phrog pilots came into the hottest zones because they knew they were needed.”

    Toolan said modern Marines also have the same feeling when they got a ride from a Sea Knight after training for weeks out in the field.

    “It’s a beautiful sight to see that Phrog come in saying ‘Hey, guys, you’re not walking home, you’re flying home,” Toolan said. “It’s an amazing aircraft.”

    Col. Sean “Kidd” Killeen, who once served as commanding officer of HMM-364 during Operation Iraqi Freedom also made remarks at the ceremony. He shared multiple stories about the CH-46s journey into combat zones, including one about Pat Donovan, a then-Marine lieutenant who received two Navy Crosses and one Silver Star for flying his Sea Knight into combat, picking up injured Marines during the Vietnam War.

    “In a moment, we will bless this helicopter in the native Hawaiian tradition,” said Killeen, referring to the static aircraft behind him. I would offer to the chaplain that although your blessing with water is humbly accepted; the blood of Marines who have been (medically evacuated) have already sanctified this aircraft. For those who have set the standard, for those who carry it and future aviators who will receive it; God bless and Semper Fidelis.”

    Jay Dunn and Grady Geske, both former Marines and CH-46 pilots, untied the maile lei, and Kahu Kordell Kekoa blessed the aircraft.

    “I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Romagnoli said of his experience flying the Phrog. “I loved the experience. I loved the squadron I was with, I loved the mission that I was able to do. It was great to be a part of that culture and the backbone of Marine Corps aviation for the last 50 years.”



    Date Taken: 11.14.2014
    Date Posted: 11.14.2014 14:53
    Story ID: 147905
    Hometown: DOBBS FERRY, NY, US

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