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Photo Information

Marine Helicopter Squadron One Marines, past and present, family members and friends mingle on the flight line with the newest addition to the squadron, a MV-22 B ‘Osprey,’ after a MV-22B Introduction Ceremony in the HMX-1 hangar on May 4, 2013. HMX-1 is scheduled to receive 11 more MV-22B by next summer.

Photo by Sgt. Rebekka S. Heite

HMX-1 66 years of presidential travel

25 Nov 2013 | Lance Cpl. Samuel Ellis

The president of the United States dismounting from a forest-green helicopter while returning the salute of a dress blue-clad Marine standing at attention on the White House lawn is a familiar sight.

According to their website, Marine Helicopter Squadron One, the unit responsible for presidential, rotary transport will celebrate 66 years of service on Dec. 1.

Although it was conceived as an experiment, HMX-1, also called the Nighthawks, holds the record as the first Marine Corps helicopter squadron and has been stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico since day one. That experiment was the springboard for a new concept in 1948 called, “vertical envelopment.”

The 50s presented a variety of opportunities for the squadron. In the early part of the decade, the squadron provided support with surveillance and medical evacuations during the Korean War. In 1957, the Nighthawks proved their worth and efficiency by expediting a trip for President Dwight D.   Eisenhower.

Opportunities grew from that flight until, almost 20 years later, HMX-1 was exclusively providing helicopter transportation for the president of the United States.

Currently the squadron not only flies dignitaries locally and around the world, but, according to globalsecurity.org, they also have a large part in the development of the Marine Corps’ helicopter program.

“HMX-1 maintains the role as the primary Operational Test and Evaluation unit for Marine assault support helicopters and related equipment,” as stated in the article, Marine Helicopter Squadron-1 (HMX-1) “Nighthawks,” on www.globalsecurity.org. “Indeed, the same pilots and aircrew supporting the president are often testing and evaluating aircraft and systems used by the Fleet Marine Forces.”

According to the squadron’s website, the unit’s fleet currently operates with “White Top” VH-3D “Sea King” and VH-60N “White Hawks,” the “Green Top” CH-46E “Sea Knight,” and the MV-22 “Osprey,” introduced in May, 2012.

Editor’s note: Officials from HMX-1 were unavailable for interviews for this article. Information presented here has been compiled from www.quantico.marines.mil/Tenants/MarineHelicoptorSquadronOne.aspx, www.hqmc.marines.mil/hmx-1/About.aspx and www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/usmc/hmx-1.htm.

Correspondent: samuel.l.ellis@usmc.mil