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Untitled Document

 

Because of the readiness demonstrated by HMLA-369, the squadron was chosen as the Marine Aircraft Group 70 (MAG-70) HMLA in support of Operation Desert Shield. Within a week of receiving official notice, the Gunfighters embarked for Southwest Asia with 24 aircraft and a squadron of combat-ready Marines. Four, six-plane detachments, each fully able to debark and operate independently, were created with the first C-5 off loading on 16 August 1990 in Saudi Arabia. HMLA-369 was the first Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron in theater.

During Desert Shield, the Gunfighters continued their pattern of excellence in maintenance, training,and in developing new and innovative tactics to combat the Iraqis.

Early on the morning of 17 January, Operation Desert Storm commenced. HMLA-369 was 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 for some well deserved rest.

In November 1991, while deployed to the Republic of the Philippines, the Gunfighters received the SQUADRON OF THE YEAR Award for it's outstanding contribution to the quick victory over Iraq.

On 28 November 1992, HMLA-369 began planning for Operation Restore Hope, the international United Nations humanitarian relief effort in Somalia. On 3 December 1992, the Gunfighters were assigned the force in readiness and was tasked to deploy eight AH-1Ws and eight UH-1Ns to Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope. The squadron deployed via C-5s between 22 -28 December 1992. By 1 January 1993 the entire squadron was deployed to Baledogle, Somalia, as the only Light Attack Helicopter Squadron in theater.

In austere field conditions and with limited support, the Gunfighters operated at an incredible pace. Flying a variety of missions including CIFS, Command and Control, Medical Evacuation, escort, visual and photo reconnaissance, logistical supply, VIP and Nongovernmental Organization (NGO) support, HMLA-369 logged 1,098 flight hours during January 1993. In late February, the Gunfighters moved their base of operations from Baledogle to Mogadishu. On 19 March, HMLA-369 took over as the Air Combat Element from MAG-16 for Marine Forces Somalia. The squadron assumed OPCON over detachments from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron-363,Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron-16, Marine Wing Support Squadron-372 and Marine Air Control Squadron-38.

During late April, HMLA-369 began their retrograde back to the continental United States. The mission was complete and responsibility was transferred to UNISOM II. By 1 May 1993, the entire squadron had returned.

June 1993 was spent preparing for another Marine Expeditionary Unit and Unit Deployment Program commitment during September and November 1993 respectively. November 1993 saw the Gunfighters depart to Okinawa in support of the UDP deployment cycle. Additionally, the Gunfighters provided detachments for the 11th and 31st MEU (Special Operation Capable). The Gunfighter 11th MEU (SOC) Detachment supported Operation Continue Hope and Operation Distant Runner, the evacuation of Americans from war torn Rwanda.

Upon return to the continental United States in May 1994, the Gunfighters were designated the first Night Targeting System (NTS) AH-1W squadron in the Fleet Marine Force. The Gunfighters went through an intensive validation and verification process in support of the NTS AH-1W. A complete pilot training syllabus was created, along with extensive revisions to maintenance and operational publications to fully integrate the NTS AH-1W into the Fleet.

ECAX 5/6-95 saw the ultimate integration of the NTS AH-1W and Huey Gunship team to Fleet operations. The innovative tactics and procedures developed by the Gunfighters brought a new dimension to the Marine Air Ground Team.

In July 1995, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 was the first NTS equipped squadron to undergo a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation. Not only did the Gunfighters validate previously untested NTS tactics, they did so at night utilizing Night Vision Devices during Low-Light Level conditions. This was a first in the Marine Light Attack Helicopter community.

In August 1995, the Gunfighters achieved 25,000 mishap-free flight hours and detached an element of four AH-1W's and three UH-1Nps to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable). In the fall of the same year, the remaining Gunfighters deployed to Okinawa, Japan, in support of the Unit Deployment Program and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).

In May 1996, the squadron returned to the United States. In the summer, the Gunfighters supported Joint Task Force 6 and surpassed 30,000 mishap-free flight hours. In September, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 was recognized for outstanding mission accomplishments and an exemplary safety record when they were selected as the Marine Corps Aviation Association Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron of the Year for 1996 and received the Chief of Naval Operation Aviation Safety Award.

In February 1997, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 began introducing the latest modification to the AH-1W Cobra, Engineering Change Proposal 1686 (ECP 1686), to the fleet. The Gunfighters demonstrated the new upgrade at both the Paris International Air Show and the Australian International Air Show. In late spring, the Gunfighters supported live fire exercises Desert Scimitar and Decisive Battle in Twentynine Palms, Calif. The squadron also supported Kernel Blitz, an amphibious exercise off the coast of Camp Pendleton.

In August 1997, the Gunfighters detached an element to the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) deployed on the USS Peleliu in support of Western Pacific 2-97. The remainder of the squadron deployed to Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif., to complete its predeployment Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation.

In the fall of 1997, the remaining Gunfighters deployed to Okinawa, Japan, in support of the Unit Deployment Program and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) taking the first two NTS AH-1W's to Okinawa. While deployed, the Gunfighters accomplished several noteworthy achievements. Gunfighter pilots successfully flew Joint Combat Search and Rescue missions with the United States Air Force 33rd Rescue Squadron. Elements of the squadron deployed to Pohang, Korea, in order to validate portions of the III Marine Expeditionary Force Korea Peninsula Operations Plan. The Gunfighters also fired the first two autonomously designated Hellfire missiles in III Marine Expeditionary Force.

In April 1998, the Gunfighters returned to Camp Pendleton, rejoining the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) detachment which had returned in March from a successful WestPac tour.

In June 1998, the Gunfighters participated in Operation Desert Punch which took place at both Camp Pendleton, Calif., and the Marine Corps Air/Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 provided key planning personnel and two flight leaders for the operation which was the largest airlift of its kind and incorporated 65 aircraft, including 50 helicopters.

In August 1998, the Gunfighters took part in a Marine Air Ground Task Force demonstration during the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Air Show. The Gunfighters also deployed a detachment of three UH-1N’s to Niland, Calif., for two weeks of intense, live-fire training with Navy SEALS in the night, low-level training environment.

In September 1998, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 accepted the Marine Corps Aviation Association Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron of the Year Award for 1998. This award recognized the Gunfighters’ commitment to excellence and sustained superior performance. It was the second such award for the Gunfighters in the last three years.

In October, 1998, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, provided personnel and aircraft for two separate detachments, Combined Arms Exercise 1-99 in Twentynine Palms and Weapons and Tactics Instructors Course 1-99. Both detachments provided outstanding support for the operations as not one mission was cancelled due to maintenance.

During the winter of 1998, the Gunfighters were recognized again for their superior safety record when they received their third consecutive Chief of Naval Operations Safety Aviation Award Safety Award.

In January 1999, the squadron participated in a Strategic Mobility Exercise. In less than 48 hours, Gunfighter Marines loaded two AH-1W’s and one UH-1N aboard a C-5A at March Air Force Base which was then flown to Kadena, Okinawa, Japan. This same detachment then loaded two different AH-1Ws and returned to California.

In March 1999, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 provided six AH-1W’s and two UH-1N's to support the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab exercise Urban Warrior. The Gunfighter detachment embarked on the Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) and participated in operations in both Monterey and Oakland, Calif.