Marine reserve helicopter squadron bids farewell to Robins

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
It was a bittersweet farewell for the Marine Corps Reserve helicopter squadron that has made Robins Air Force Base its home for the past six years.

A deactivation ceremony was held Thursday for Marine Aircraft Group-49 Detachment Alpha, as well as a consolidation ceremony for Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 773 (minus), which falls under the command of MAG-49.

Lt. Col. Philip "Tank" Eilertson, HMLA 773 site commanding officer, lauded the incredible support from not only the Marines under his command, but from across Robins and the Middle Georgia community.

"It's bittersweet because we're leaving so many people we've known over the years," said the AH-1W Super Cobra pilot. "For my wife and I, we've never made as many friends as fast as we have at this duty station. It speaks a lot to this city, the base and the Marines here. Thank you all for your support." 

The HMLA squadron relocated in July 2010 to Robins from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta. Part of three separate detachments, HMLA 773 operations at Robins will consolidate this summer with its sister unit, HMLA-773 Detachment B at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

During their time here, at its peak the unit included 150 active duty Marines and 185 Reservists who flew and supported the squadron's seven AH-1W Super Cobras and three UH-1Y Hueys.

The squadron's consolidation was one of several force optimization actions contained in a fiscal 2015 Marine Aviation Plan. The consolidation's goal is to streamline command and control, increase operational efficiency, and maximize Reserve support to its active component. It also reduces the footprint of HMLA-773 - the only Reserve Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron in the Marine Corps - from three to two sites. The other remaining unit is located at Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse, La. 
During their time here, the "Red Dogs" squadron's active duty and reservists have maintained and flown a small fleet of AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters and UH-1Y Huey utility helicopters, a newer four-bladed variant that replaced the Corps' UH-1N helicopters. The unit was one of the final squadrons to receive the UH-1Y 'Yankee' in 2014.

Whether supporting active duty units with exercises at Twentynine Palms, Calif., Fort Benning, Ga., the Air Force Joint Attack Terminal Controller School at Hurlburt Field, Fla., downrange in Iraq or Afghanistan, or even aboard a Dutch ship engaging with partner nations, the squadron has proven its fearlessness and versatility of mission since the late 1950s.

No doubt, the absence of the squadron's familiar fleet of helicopters, in particular the distinctive sounds originating from its rotor heads, will be felt. 

"The Marines have been a vital part of our community. They brought the 'Oo-rah' to Robins - and, they will be missed," said Col. Jeff King, Robins Installation commander.