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HMLA-169 Marines look back on experiences in Iraq

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 2005252142
Story by Cpl. Paul Leicht

AL ASAD, Iraq (Feb. 05, 2005) -- Officially arriving in Iraq Aug. 5, 2004, the Marines of Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron are now nearing the end of a successful deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

While some members of the squadron have already begun to depart for home, others continue to fly or support combat missions for a few more weeks.

For many in the squadron, they leave Iraq with valuable experiences and a greater appreciation for their lives back home.

“I have learned a lot of things since I got here,” said Lance Cpl. James A. Stanton, intelligence analyst, HMLA-169, who is at the end of his first deployment. “Before I came to Iraq I was new to the squadron. I did not know a lot of people and being out here has allowed me to make a lot of new friends. I have also been able to learn a lot about my job, especially briefing and analyzing intelligence products.”

Stanton said he was also able to fly with some of the squadron’s pilots to take some aerial reconnaissance photographs.

“I had a lot of fun being able to fly and assist with collecting intelligence for the squadron,” said the Mitchell, Neb., native. “Overall I had a good experience over here. There are always the bad things too, like the chow and port-a-johns, but for the most part it was a good experience for me.”

For other Marines who have deployed before, their time in Iraq was also beneficial.

“This is my second deployment with the squadron, and I have to say this is the better of the two,” said Pfc. Richard T. Gillett, embarkation specialist, HMLA-169, from Forks, Wash. “I have had a lot of good experiences out of both of deployments, to include becoming really efficient at my job, meeting new people from different countries and seeing just how good we really have it back home.”

Gillett said he also has had his share of bad experiences, like the sand storms, long work hours, and the restroom facilities, to name a few.

“I'll be returning home here shortly and have lots of good stories and memories to share with family and friends,” said Gillett. “Being here has really helped me realize how much I care for them.”

Squadron leaders are also going home with an overwhelming sense of personal and unit achievement.

“It has been a true honor to serve here in Iraq in the midst of all of these warrior Marines, and Soldiers too,” said Maj. Glen G. Butler, executive officer, HMLA-169, and a native of West Chester, Pa. “From the ‘studs’ I have flown with daily, to the ‘unsung heroes’ who work behind the scenes day after day fixing our aircraft, keeping our administrative and logistics requirements up to speed (and doing so without complaining, despite not having one single day off in over six months), the caliber of Marines in our Corps is tremendous.”

Butler added that their combat performance has been nothing less than inspirational and is something that he will never forget.

Recalling several occasions when aircrews in his squadron discovered enemy rocket tubes—loaded and poised to strike the base—Butler said no one may ever know if those rockets would have killed anyone here, but he is happy they were detected to keep everyone safe.

“Our country has much to be proud of,” said Butler. “Moms and dads back home can also sleep well at night knowing these hard-charging Americans are on the front lines here.”

By late January 2005, the squadron flew more than 2,600 AH-1W Super Cobra hours, 1,225 UH-1N Huey hours, and achieved 85 new designations/qualifications for pilots and 40 for crew chiefs.

In addition, over 920 combat flight missions had been supported, all mishap-free, according to Maj. John R. Bowen, maintenance officer, HMLA-169, and a native of Carlsbad, Calif.

True to the ‘Vipers’ motto, all missions were executed professionally, ‘on time, on target.’


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