Airport welcomes nearly 70 Marines with SM-style feast


By Julian J. Ramos


Nearly 70 Marines from Camp Pendleton are among the newest fans of Santa Maria-style barbeque.


Members of the Marine Medium Helicopter Training Squadron 164 and Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 were the guests of honor Tuesday at the Santa Maria Museum of Flight for a barbeque that doubles as a “thank you” for their service.


The Marines landed at the Santa Maria Public Airport in a dozen helicopters made up of CH-46 Sea Knights, AH-1W Super Cobras, and UH-1Y Yankees.


Capt. Jason Harris of HMM(T)-164, a Sea Knight transport helicopter pilot, said the tri-tip sandwich lunch was a welcome diversion from the daily routine.  “It’s always great to see a sign of support from the public,” the Orange County native and a veteran of three Iraq tours said shortly after entering the museum to a standing ovation from the crowd that included Major Larry Lavagnino.


The trip up the coast to Santa Maria served as a reward for the hard work of support crews who make flying helicopter possible, said Capt. Chris Cayere of HMLA-169, a Yankee utility helicopter pilot from Oakland.  In the Marines for five years, Cayere has served one tour in Afghanistan.


Most of the Marines, 60 of them, were from HMLA-169 – a squadron scheduled for a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan in November.


Pfc. Erik Everard, a Michigan native who works as an avionics technician with HMLA-169, had never flown in a helicopter until the trip from San Diego County to Santa Maria.  Everard, in the marines for less than two years, had never tasted Santa Maria-style barbeque before Tuesday either.  “Fantastic!” he said of Santa Maria’s signature meal.


July 28, 2010