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Kaneohe’s ‘Red Lions’ saw duty in Middle East

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Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, known as the “Red Lions,” with its 12 CH-53D Sea Stallions returned from Afghanistan in September.

The squadron, led by Lt. Col. Mark Revor, is one of three helicopter units at Kaneohe Bay and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 24 and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

It has been on two previous seven-month deployments to Iraq.

The Red Lions are scheduled to transition to the new tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey within the next few years, according to its Facebook page.

Maj. Alan Crouch, Kaneohe spokesman, said the Ospreys would replace two squadrons of older Sea Stallions, while a third squadron of 10 Sea Stallions would be replaced by newer versions of the CH-53E Super Stallion.

He said the transition involving 24 Ospreys will occur within the next five to seven years.

The Osprey is designed to transport 24 Marines at a cruising speed of about 250 knots (about 288 mph), exceeding the performance of CH-46 medium-lift helicopters.

The Navy, in a fact sheet, said all of the Marine Corps’ CH-53D Sea Stallions are assigned to Kaneohe Bay. It is a medium-lift helicopter designed to transport personnel, supplies and equipment in support of amphibious and shore operations.

 It has since been replaced in the heavy-lift mission by the CH-53E Super Stallion.

The Red Lions squadron was activated June 2, 1952, at Santa Ana, Calif. It deployed to South Vietnam in 1965. The squadron got its nickname during the Vietnam War because of its close affiliation with a South Korean infantry unit — the Tiger Division. It was relocated to Kaneohe Bay in 1996 from the West Coast.

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