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The History Of HMX -1

HMX-1 is the United States Marine Corps Squadron designated to provide helicopter transport to the White House for the President, Vice-President, Cabinet Members, VIP’s and other dignitaries.

Located at Marine Corps Base (MCB) Quantico in Northern Virginia, HMX -1 is the largest squadron in the Marine Corps. It has tasking in three primary areas and therefore has commitments and fulfills roles that other squadrons don’t.

In addition to Presidential transport, HMX-1 is the only squadron in the Marine Corps that performs Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) of helicopter systems for the Fleet Marine Force (FMF). This means that the pilots and engineers at Quantico determine if existing and new systems work as per their design specifications and then determine the best way to employ these systems.

HMX-1 also has a third function. The squadron supports the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) at Quantico. The MCCDC is responsible for developing and implementing helicopter tactics and providing helicopter support for training evolutions at the base.

HMX-1 was the first helicopter squadron established by the Marine Corps. It was formed after Marine General Roy Geiger witnessed the atomic test detonation at Bikini atoll. General Geiger theorized that future amphibious landings could be jeopardized by the atomic bomb and a method was needed to diffuse troops, which avoided the loss of an entire concentrated force because of an atomic blast. The Commandant of the time, General Alexander A. Vandergrift convened the Hogeboom board to study the problem and recommend solutions. The board recommended the development and use of helicopters to mitigate the threat.

HVX-1 was commissioned in December 1947. The decision to base the squadron in Quantico was a result of wanting to be close to the two helicopter manufacturers that the Corps used, Sikorsky and Piasecki and to be near the Marine Corps Schools at Quantico where most of the squadron personnel would come from.

The first helicopters assigned to HMX-1 were the Sikorsky HO3S-1 and the Piasecki HRP-1. During its first amphibious helicopter evaluation exercise, 5 HMX-1 helicopters flew 66 marines from the USS Palau (an escort carrier commissioned in 1946) to MCB Camp Lejeune on the coast of North Carolina.

The first presidential helicopter flight, though not scheduled, occurred in 1957. On board was President Dwight D. Eisenhower who previously had been at his summer home in Rhode Island when his presence was needed at the White House. The ferry ride from his home across Narragansett Bay would take an hour followed by a flight on Air Force One to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland then a 20-minute car ride from Andrews to the White House. President Eisenhower’s aide learned that a helicopter used for emergency purposes was stationed at Rhode Island and would be available to make the seven-minute flight across the bay to Air Force One. That flight in a HMX-1 Sikorsky H-34 Seahorse began a tradition that now includes the VH-71A Kestrel.

HMX-1 then determined if it was possible to land a helicopter on the south lawn of the White House. After some test flights, HVX-1 began to airlift the President to and from the south lawn of the White House.

For Presidential missions HVX-1 currently flies VH-3D and VH-60N aircraft. The squadron is transitioning to the new VH-71 A Kestrel built by Lockheed Martin under contract from AgustaWestland.

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