HMLA-369

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Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369
HMLA-369 insignia.PNG
HMLA-369 insignia
Active
  • April 1, 1972 - present
CountryUnited States
AllegianceUnited States of America
BranchUnited States Marine Corps
TypeLight/Attack squadron
RoleClose air support
Air interdiction
Assault support
Part ofMarine Aircraft Group 39
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Garrison/HQMarine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton
Nickname"Gunfighters"
"Pistol Pete" (Vietnam War)
Tail CodeSM
EngagementsVietnam War
* Operation Linebacker (MARHUK)
*Operation Eagle Pull
* Operation Frequent Wind
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Restore Hope
Operation Enduring Freedom
* Operation Anaconda
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Commanders
Current
commander
LtCol Tres 'Grinch' Smith
 
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Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369
HMLA-369 insignia.PNG
HMLA-369 insignia
Active
  • April 1, 1972 - present
CountryUnited States
AllegianceUnited States of America
BranchUnited States Marine Corps
TypeLight/Attack squadron
RoleClose air support
Air interdiction
Assault support
Part ofMarine Aircraft Group 39
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Garrison/HQMarine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton
Nickname"Gunfighters"
"Pistol Pete" (Vietnam War)
Tail CodeSM
EngagementsVietnam War
* Operation Linebacker (MARHUK)
*Operation Eagle Pull
* Operation Frequent Wind
Operation Desert Storm
Operation Restore Hope
Operation Enduring Freedom
* Operation Anaconda
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Commanders
Current
commander
LtCol Tres 'Grinch' Smith

Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMLA-369) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron consisting of AH-1W SuperCobra attack helicopters and UH-1Y Huey utility helicopters. The squadron, also known as the "Gunfighters", is based at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 39 (MAG-39) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW).

Contents

Mission

Support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander by providing offensive air support, utility support, armed escort and airborne supporting arms coordination, day or night under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint or combined operations.

History

Vietnam War

HMA-369 was activated on April 1, 1972, at Marine Corps Air Station Futema, later Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Two months after being activated, the squadron was deployed to Vietnam to participate in Operation MARHUK (Marine Hunter Killer). "Pistol Pete" as the squadron was then known, had the distinction of being the first attack helicopter squadron in Marine Corps history to conduct offensive air operations. This occurred on June 20, 1972 when HMA-369 AH-1J Seacobras, operating from the USS Denver (LPD-9), began interdicting enemy barges and ferries and acting as low lying FACs for Navy carrier strikes.[1] The squadron subsequently transferred to USS Cleveland (LPD-7) and finally USS Dubuque (LPD-8) while conducting MARHUK operations. <ref: "Tails Through Time: Operation MARHUK", http://aviationtrivia.blogspot.com/2011/02/operation-marhuk-cambat-debut-of.htm> The Marine Corps Aviation Association honored HMA-369 with their Helicopter Squadron of the Year Award in 1972. HMA-369 was also awarded a Navy Unit Citation for this period. The squadron redeployed to Okinawa in January 1973, but remained active in the conflict through Operation Eagle Pull and Operation Frequent Wind in 1975, flying numerous sorties supporting the evacuation of Saigon.

Post Vietnam

In April 1977, HMA-369 was disestablished on Okinawa and reestablished at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California as a member of Detachment Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd MAW. In August 1983, HMA-369 had the distinction of being the first helicopter squadron of any service to participate in the United States Air Force Red Flag aviation combat exercise.

In October 1985, HMA-369 was in Hong Kong to support then Vice-President George H.W. Bush's trip to the People's Republic of China. On two separate occasions, the Gunfighters flew four UH-1Ns from Hong Kong across the Red Chinese border to the cities Guangzhou and Shenzhen. This historic trip marked the first time since 1949 that a tactical Marine squadron had entered Communist China's airspace.

Also during 1987, UH-1Ns were made a permanent part of the HMA-369 and on September 15, 1987 HMA-369 was officially re-designated as Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 (HMLA-369). In October 1987, the majority of AH-1J pilots attended the AH-1W pilots familiarization course in Dallas, Texas and on October 30, 1987, HMLA-369 received its first AH-1W.

Gulf War & the 1990s

In 1990, HMLA-369 was chosen as the HMLA component of Marine Aircraft Group 70 (MAG-70) in support of Operation Desert Shield. The Gunfighters arrived in Saudi Arabia on August 16, 1990, operating as the first Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron in theater.

During Desert Shield the Gunfighters were the first HMLA called to war. Throughout the war, the Gunfighters distinguished themselves both in the planning and execution phases of the air and ground wars. On 10 March 1991, the Gunfighters departed Saudi Arabia, returning to Camp Pendleton. In November, the Gunfighters received the MCAA Squadron of the Year Award

On November 28, 1992, HMLA-369 began planning for Operation Restore Hope, the international United Nations humanitarian relief effort in Somalia. On December 3, 1992, the Gunfighters were assigned as the force in readiness and by January 1, 1993, the entire squadron was deployed to Baledogle, Somalia, as the sole light attack helicopter squadron in theater operating under Marine Aircraft Group 16[2] HMLA -369 flew a variety of missions including Close In Fire Support, Command and Control, MEDEVAC, Escort, Visual and Photo Reconnaissance, Logistical Supply, VIP, and Non Governmental Organization (NGO) support. HMLA-369 logged 1,098 flight hours during January. The Gunfighters returned to Camp Pendleton in April 1993.

November 1993 saw the Gunfighters depart for Okinawa in support of the UDP deployment Program. Additionally, the Gunfighters provided detachments for the 11th and 31st Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable) (MEU(SOC)). The Gunfighter 11th MEU(SOC) Detachment supported Operation Continue Hope and Operation Distant Runner, aiding in the evacuation of Americans from war torn Rwanda.

Cobra arming.jpg

Global War on Terror

The Gunfighters of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard, received word from Central Command on March 3, 2002 that their assets would be needed to support the Coalition Joint Task Force (CJTF) operating out of Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The Gunfighter's six AH-1Ws flew 22 days of continuous combat operations which included attached, detached and combined escort, close air support (CAS), forward air control (FAC(A)), and armed reconnaissance.

HMLA-369 Cobra over Al Qaim, Iraq in November 2005

HMLA-369 arrived in Kuwait on April 13, 2003 and within three days began conducting combat operations in the skies of Iraq. In April 2003 the Gunfighters carried out over 300 combat missions into Iraq, from Ali Al Salem, Kuwait, providing combat support to Marines on the ground. Amassing over 600 mishap free hours, the Gunfighters directly supported the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. The Gunfighters flew over 1,300 mishap free flight hours while performing offensive air and utility support missions. In the month of May alone, HMLA-369 flew 948.3 hours and completed 638 combat sorties.

Working mostly out of Blair Field, a forward operating base (FOB) in Al Kut, Iraq, the Gunfighters provided continuous air coverage in northeastern Iraq. From June 27 to July 1, the Gunfighters flew air support for British allies in southeastern Iraq. The British ground forces requested close air support for their sweep of the towns of Al Amarah and Al Silah. The month of July was short for Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369. The Gunfighters concluded flight operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom on July 12.

The Gunfighters finished up their second rotation in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and are based at Forward Operating Base, Al Taqaddum, Iraq. As part of 2nd MAW (FWD), MAG-26(FWD). During the course of the deployment, on November 2, 2005, an AH-1W Super Cobra from the squadron was shot down near Ramadi, killing the two Marines on board. The unit deployed to Iraq again from April 2007 to November or 2007 and from November 2008 to May 2009. The Gunfighters then deployed to Afghanistan from April 2010 to November 2010. While in suppourt of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), HMLA-369 had an AH-1W shot down, killing the two Marines on board.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Mersky (1983), p.282.
  2. ^ SimmonsThe US Marines History, p. 320.

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.


Bibliography
  • Mersky, Peter B. (1983). U.S. Marine Corps Aviation - 1912 to the Present. Nautical and Aviation Publishing Company of America. ISBN 0-933852-39-8. 
  • Simmons, Edwin H. (2003). The United States Marines: A History, Fourth Edition. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-59114-790-5. 
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