Flying As Marine One
by Jamie Link, Commander Navy Region Southeast
April 15, 2018
To say Ron Colyer has seen, done, and experienced some interesting and unique things would certainly be an understatement. Taking to the skies above, as well as supporting the flying mission from the ground, Colyer has had many interesting designations in his 24 years of active service to our country in the United States Marine Corps.
Colyer is currently the site manager for Cubic Global Defense. Cubic Global Defense provides TH-57 and T-6B simulator training as well as Academic instruction. He and his staff of 92 personnel provide support to Training Air Wing FIVE onboard NAS Whiting Field to support the mission to help produce the military’s finest Aviation Warfighters.
Prior to his position at NAS Whiting Field, this Marine has flown Presidential support missions as “Marine One” and served as a former Commanding Officer of Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHTEEN (HT-18).
“Flying Marine One on multiple occasions is certainly high on my list of highlights, it was an honor for me” Cubic site manager, Colyer said.
Marine Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron responsible for the transportation of the President of the United States, Vice President, Cabinet members and other dignitaries. When flying the President of the United States, the aircraft’s call sign is “Marine One”.
He joined the HMX-1 squadron after completion of Amphibious Warfare School. He was encouraged to pursue the path by the then-commanding officer of the unit, with whom Collier had previously served. Although working in Presidential Support wasn’t something he had seriously considered while “growing up” in the Marine Corps, the assignment seemed to be good-timing for where his wife and he, in their Marine Corps careers.
The Marine detailed some the challenges of flying Marine One.
“You want to get everything right, every time. It is a very thorough process when flying the President, Vice President, Joint Chiefs, cabinet members and visiting dignitaries. We were also called upon to fly other nation’s presidents, kings, prime ministers and even the Pope.”
Colyer’s service to the Executive Flight Detachment of HMX-1 came during President William Clinton’s tenure in office, from 1993 through 1997. During that time, he also supported flying missions to the presidential retreat at Camp David, and had the opportunity to spend weekends at the retreat while the President was there.
Marine Helicopter Squadron One was established 1 December 1947 at Marine Base Quantico, Virginia, as an experimental unit tasked with testing and evaluating military helicopters when rotary wing flight was still in its infancy. Founded to test tactics, techniques, procedures and equipment, HMX-1 has since then, become synonymous with helicopter transport of the President of the United States.
A U.S. Marine Corps Sikorsky VH-3D Sea King helicopter, assigned to Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 (HMX-1), in flight over Washington D.C. on 21 May 21, 2005. The VH-3D, designated Marine One, was flying U.S. president George W. Bush to the White House from Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland (USA) ... President Bush was returning from Grand Rapids, Michigan (USA), after giving a graduation speech to the 2005 graduates of Calvin College. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Navy Photographer's Mate 2nd Class Daniel J. McLain)
“Operations at HMX-1 are classified,” Colyer said, “but, as I told my friends after I left the unit, ‘there’s a lot more going on than what you can see’”.
Surprisingly, although serving a Presidential support mission was a career highlight, Colyer considers his time as Commander of HT-18 here at NAS Whiting Field as the pinnacle accomplishment of his career.
“Teaching young officers how to fly helicopters was very rewarding…and fun”, Colyer says.
Colyer had many significant accomplishments during service to the country. He deployed four times on US Navy ships, spent 33 days above the Arctic Circle in Norway, performed duties as a CH-53E Assault Support Helicopter pilot, and served in all three active duty Marine Corps Wings. Additionally, he completed numerous deployments, staff assignments, and even served as the Deputy Director of the Wargaming Division at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab at Quantico, Virginia, which supports the experimentation process as well as other combat development processes.
Colyer was part of an elite group as a select few to fly the Command in Chief. He says he is proud to have served in all his capacities in the Marine Corps.
“You stay in the Corps because of the people you meet, the opportunities you get and the places you go. I’m proud to have served.” Colyer said.