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Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron-269 [HML/A-269]

HML/A-269 was formed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina on 22 February 1971 as an Activation Cadre. The squadron was activated on I July 1971 as the Marine Corps, first designated attack helicopter squadron. Equipped with the AH-IJ "Sea Cobra", HMLA-269's mission was to provide close in fire support during aerial and ground escort operations during ship to shore movement and subsequent operations ashore. Over the next six years the Gunrunners, as they later became known, pioneered the employment of the AH-LJ in the attack helicopter role.

In December 1977, HMLA-269 took delivery of the first AH-LT improved Sea Cobra, with the first AH-LT (TOW) Cobra arriving the following year. The squadron opened a new era of attack helicopter aviation in early 1979 by being the first Marine Corps squadron to fire the TOW anti-tank missile from an airborne platform. From that day, HMLA-269 has not surrendered the lead in developing a wide range of new anti-armor tactics.

During the 1980's, HML/A-269 deployed to the Mediterranean and the northern flank of NATO. It also deployed to Central America and the Caribbean for counter-narcotics operations. During that time, it participated in eight Combined Arms Exercises at the Marine Air-Ground Combat Center.

From late 1982 to early 1984, HMLA-269 and HMLA-167 exchanged assets forming mirror image Light/Attack Helicopter squadrons in each aircraft group. With the addition of the UH-IN, HMLA-269 expanded its primary mission to include utility helicopter support. During this massive restructuring the squadron continued to meet dramatic challenges in training, management, and support of deployments.

In 1985 the squadron was tasked with providing detachment sized contingents for various operations throughout the entire year. Though heavily committed, HMLA-269 maintained its impressive list of firsts; first flight testing of biochemical protective suits in the AH-LT (TOW), first flight testing of "fast rope insertion" equipment, refining the TOW missile engagement envelope, and developing tactics for the use of electronic countermeasure equipment against gun and missile radars. Additionally, the squadron participated in the first actual movement of Second Marine Aircraft Wing assets in an air contingency drill. The following year, the Gunrunners achieved another first when they fired a Sidewinder air-to-air missile at a target drone over the desert of China Lake. These achievements earned the squadron a Meritorious Unit Commendation and selection as the Marine Corps Association Helicopter Squadron of the Year for 1986.

In late 1988, HMLA-269 stood as the Air Combat Element for Contingency Marine Air Ground Task Force 4-88 and subsequently deployed to the Persian Gulf. The squadron was recalled from deployment prematurely when events abroad unexpectedly lulled. During February and March 1990 a detachment of AH-IT Cobras supported the President of the United States while he was in Cartegena, Columbia for an anti-drug conference. In August 1990, with the news of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, HMLA-269 set aside all previous plans and prepared once again for operations in the Persian Gulf. By the end of August 1990, the Gunrunners had deployed to Southwest Asia by C-5 with twelve AH-IW's, while three AH-IT's and six UH-lN,s followed by sea.

Once in country, the squadron was further divided into three separate units; HMLA-269 Forward with six AH-lW's aboard USS Shreveport, HMLA-269 with the three AH-lT's and six UH-IN's aboard USS Nassau, HMLA-269 Det Alpha with the remaining six AH-lW,s aboard USS Raleigh. Each of these units participated in major 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade exercises during Operation Desert Shield.

During Desert Storm, HMLA-269 Forward, operating out of "Lonesome Dove" landing zone, provided critical on-call close in fire support, escort for psychological operations, medical evacuation, and air intercept.

HML/A-269 deployed in mid 1996 to the tropical lands of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, where it participated in a fire support coordination exercise. The exercise, Rum Punch, involved both British and American forces.

Warfighters from Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron-269 were called on the alert and deployed to Haiti in support of a contingency operation March 3, 2004. As part of the Alert Contingency Marine Air Ground Task Force (ACM), the "Gunrunners" joined 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune. The squadron took an undisclosed amount of aircraft with them as they departed from New River, and approximately 100 Marines were given a 96-hour notice to pack their seabags and prepare to leave when ordered, added Boyer of Russellville, Ark.



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