Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron-169 [HMLA-169]
Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 was commissioned as Marine Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, Calif., on 30 September 1971. After returning from combat duty in Southeast Asia, the squadron received its first AH-1G Cobra, beginning a tradition of attack helicopter operations that has evolved to our present configuration of 18 AH-1W SuperCobras and 9 UH-1N Hueys.
Through the 1970s, HMA-169 engaged in rigorous amphibious training at sea and combined exercises ashore. HMA-169 conducted operational testing and evaluation as the first Fleet Marine Force attack helicopter squadron to fire the 5" Zuni rocket and employ the TOW missile. The 1980s brought increased operational commitments and a growing legacy of aviation safety milestones. HMA-169 aircrew and helicopters also participated in numerous innovative combat development programs, including the AIM-9L Sidewinder evaluation.
On 1 October 1986, the re-designated HMLA-169 received 12 UH-1N Hueys, increasing the Vipers' capabilities commensurate with the needs of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. Testing of the composite squadron came on 8 October 1987, when HMLA-169 deployed with 72 hours notice as the Aviation Combat Element for contingency Marine Air Ground Task Force 1-88 aboard the USS OKINAWA en route to the Persian Gulf.
HMLA-169 continued innovative training by developing tactics for the Hellfire missile system, night vision goggles (NVGs), reconnaissance insert operations, and combat mine countermeasures escort missions. In July 1988, the Vipers were the first Fleet Marine Force helicopter squadron to fire the Sidearm anti-radiation missile and in November the first to fire the AIM-9L Sidewinder utilizing NVGs.
From December 1990 to June 1991, HMLA-169 embarked aboard the USS Tarawa in support of combat operations in Southwest Asia, and deployed ashore during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with MAG-50 at Tanajib, Saudi Arabia. From 24 February to 4 March 1991, the Vipers flew 234 combat sorties engaging enemy Iraqi forces without loss of aircraft or personnel. Returning from the Kuwaiti theater, the squadron was routed to assist in humanitarian relief to flood ravaged Bangladesh as part of Operation Sea Angel.
In May 1992 HMLA-169 supported local law enforcement during the Los Angeles riots, and again in 1993 conducted humanitarian relief and peace keeping operations in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope.
The squadron has been awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Award, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and Naval Unit Commendation streamers, the Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer with two bronze stars, and the National Defense Service streamer with one bronze star. The squadron has received three Chief of Naval Operations safety awards and numerous Fleet Marine Force Pacific Aviation Safety Awards. HMLA-169 was designated Marine Corps Aviation Association Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron of the Year for 1997, and received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for operations from May 1996 to June 1997.
The squadron's mission is to provide combat assault helicopter support and attack helicopter fire support and fire support coordination for aerial and ground forces during amphibious operations and subsequent operations ashore.
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