When the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit sets sail aboard three Navy ships from San Diego, Calif., on Monday, its departure will mark the start of the final stateside MEU deployment for the Marine Corps’ fleet of CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters.
The tandem rotor helicopter, nicknamed the Battle Phrog for its quirky silhouette, is getting replaced by the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor, and the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 15th MEU will be the last stateside MEU to deploy with the Phrogs as part of its aviation combat element. The next unit that follows, the 13th MEU, is slated to have an Osprey squadron as the core of the reinforced squadron that gives MEUs their long legs, extra lift and firepower in the air.
The “Purple Foxes” of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, based at the Camp Pendleton air staton, will make this historic deployment, adding another notable achievement to its long storied history. When they leave, though, other Phrogs remain flying around Southern California while Marine Air Group 39’s HMM-268 and HMMT-164 continue to support units with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and I Marine Expeditionary Force until the final Phrog is replaced with an Osprey.
The 15th MEU, commanded by Col. Scott D. Campbell, will deploy Sept. 17 aboard Peleliu, amphibious transport dock Green Bay and dock landing ship Rushmore, all homeported in San Diego. The MEU and Peleliu Amphibious Ready, with about 4,000 Marines and sailors in all, wrapped up predeployment training in late August and prepared to leave for the Western Pacific and Middle East regions. For many of the MEU’s Marines and sailors, including infantrymen with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, this year marks a return to sea as a MEU battalion landing team. Now it’s their turn, particularly for the “Darkhorse” battalion that completed combat tours to the sand boxes of Iraq and Afghanistan, to earn their sea legs and see new “climes and places.”