the late '70s and early '80s the Gunfighters maintained their high state of
excellence during many unit deployments, exercises and operations. In October
1982, the Marine Corps Aviation Association awarded the COMMANDANT'S EFFICIENCY
TROPHY in recognition for being the most operationally productive squadron
in the Marine Corps for 1981.
In August 1983, Marine
Helicopter Attack Squadron-369 had the distinction of being the first helicopter
squadron of any service to participate in the U.S. Air Force Red Flag aviation
combat exercise. This exercise had previously been limited to fixed wing aircraft
In June 1984, while
participating in Red Flag 84-4, HMA-369 achieved the milestone of 10,000 mishap-free
hours. For two weeks during the following month, the squadron provided six
UH-1Ns for VIP support during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. During the
games, HMA-369 flew such honored guests as the King and Queen of Sweden and
Princess Anne of Great Britain.
In October 1985, HMA-369
was in Hong Kong to support then Vice-President George 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 of
Guangzhou and Shenzhen. This historic trip marked the first time since 1949
that a tactical Marine squadron had penetrated communist China's airspace.
In January 1986, HMA-369
reached a milestone of 20,000 accident-free flight hours, and in May was awarded
Fleet Marine Force's Pacific ANNUAL AVIATION SAFETY AWARD for 1985.
During 1987, the Gunfighters
celebrated many milestones and saw many changes. One first came for HMA-369
in January 1987 when four AH-1Js and two UH-1Ns were loaded aboard an Air
Force C-5 and flown to Naval Air Station Cubi Point, Republic of the Philippines.
This marked the first time that Marine Corps helicopters participated in Cope
Thunder, an Air Force sponsored exercise.
As CONUS operations
resumed for HMA-369, the squadron was presented with the 1986 FMFPac Safety
Award on 10 July 1987. Another milestone was marked on 23 July 1987 as HMA-369
reached 30,000 mishap-free flight hours, and on 19 August 1987 HMA-369 celebrated
its fifth anniversary of Class A mishap free flying.
Also during 1987, UH-1Ns
were made a permanent part of the HMA-369 T/E and on 15 September 1987 HMA-369
was officially designated 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 30 October 1987, HMLA-369 received its first AH-1W.
From 10 to 25 April
1988, the Gunfighters supported Combined Arms Exercise 5-88 and fired it's
first Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided (TOW) and Hellfire missiles
from the new "Whiskey" model Cobras. 1 May 1988 marked the end of
an era for HMLA-369, as the last AH-1J departed the squadron.
On 11 December 1988,
8 AH-1Ws and the main body were flown to MCAS Futenma, Okinawa, for Unit Deployment
Program (UDP) Western Pacific aboard C-5 and C-141 aircraft. This marked the
first "Whiskeys" to deploy to Okinawa in support of the UDP.
HMLA-369 deployed to
the Republic of the Philippines from 9 January - 3 February 1989 with 5 AH-1Ws
and 3 UH-1Ns. HMLA-369 was the first light attack squadron to Rapid Ground
Refuel (RGR) and to fly to and from the Philippines. During the deployment,
a successful AIM-9H shoot was accomplished from an AH-1W. In addition, HMLA-369
surpassed 40,000 hours of Class A mishap-free flying on 30 January 1989.