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HMLA-269 History

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  • HMLA-269 History

    HML/A-269 was formed at Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina on 22 February 1971 as Activation Cadre. The squadron was activated on 1 July 1971 as the Marine Corps first designated attack helicopter squadron. Equipped with the AH-1J "Sea Cobra," HML/A-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.

    In December 1977, HML/A-269 took delivery of the first AH-1T (TOW) Cobra. 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, HML/A-269 has not surrendered the lead in developing a wide range of new anti-armor tactics.

    In the early eighties, with the addition of the UH-1N, HML/A-269 expanded its primary mission to include utility helicopter support. During this massive restructuring the squadron continued to meet dramatic challenges. Though heavily committed, HML/A-269 maintained its impressive list of firsts; first flight testing of biochemical protective suits in the AH-1T (TOW), first flight testing of "fast rope insertion" equipment, first to refine the TOW missile engagement gun and missile radars. Additionally, the squadron participated in the first actual movement of 2d Marine Aircraft Wing assets in an air contingency drill. In 1986, the Gunrunners achieved yet 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 Helicopter Squadron of the Year for 1986.

    In 1990, the Gunrunners deployed to Southwest Asia with twelve AH-1W's, three AH-1T's, and six UH-1N's. These assets participated in a major 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade exercises during Operation DESERT SHIELD. During Operation DESERT STORM, the squadron conducted critical on-call close-in fire support, escort for minesweeping aircraft, Surface Combat Air Patrol, and air intercept operations. Meanwhile, Gunrunner Hueys played a vital role in the raid on Faylaka Island, firing in excess of seventy-five 2.75" rockets at fortified Iraqi positions under NVG low light level conditions.

    Following the Gulf War, the Gunrunners continued to support requirements of LF6F deployments, in such areas as Yugoslavia, Somalia, and the Middle East. The squadron also supported numerous 2d Marine Aircraft Wing and Marine Forces Atlantic exercises, both in CONUS and abroad, including exercises in Norway and Puerto Rico. In 1994 the Gunrunners were tasked with providing a detachment on short notice to HMM-264 for Special Purpose MAGTF-CARIB in support of Operation UPHOLD/SUPPORT DEMOCRACY in Haiti. One year later, on 6 June 1995, two "Gunrunner" Cobras, assigned to HMM-263 escorted two CH-53E's from the USS Kearsarge to successfully rescue Air Force Captain Scott O'Grady. During this deployment, HML/A-269 also became the first squadron to deploy the new Night Targeting System on all of its Cobras, effectively adding increased combat compatibility to the forward deployed forces. The squadron's hard efforts that year were rewarded by being named the HML/A Squadron of the Year.

    As the second half of the decade began, the Gunrunners continued to prove their worth. In 1996, the squadron participated in Operation RUM PUNCH in Puerto Rico and Exercise Cooperative Osprey. The squadron also supported detachments with LF6F deployments that supported Operation ASSURED RESPONSE in Liberia. In 1997 the HML/A detachment to HMM-365 supported Operation SILVER WAKE in Albania and Operation GUARDIAN RETRIEVAL in the Congo.

    In recognition of its hard-earned reputation for setting the standard in attack helicopter aviation, the Gunrunners were designated the Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron of the Year in 1998 by the Marine Corps Aviation Association.

    In 1999, the Gunrunners were instrumental in assisting with the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures used by the USCG for their MH-90 Avenger helicopters during maritime surface drug interdiction operations.

    In April 2000, HML/A-269 was designated as the Aviation Combat Element for Special Purpose MAGTF Vieques and integrated six CH-46E and five CH-53E helicopters into a cohesive unit tasked with assisting the Department of Justice with federalizing the military reservation on Vieques Island, Puerto Rico. Embarked aboard the USS Bataan, the Gunrunners provided invaluable support to the FBI, U.S. Marshals, and other agencies in removing unlawful trespassers from U.S. Government property.

    In the wake of the events of September 11, 2001, the Gunrunners attached to HMM-365 (Rein) with 26th MEU(SOC) flew over 400 combat missions in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM from Forward Operating Bases Rhino and Khandahar, in Afghanistan. In 2002 the Gunrunners attached to HMM-263 (REIN) with the 24th MEU (SOC) flying in Kosovo, the Horn of Africa, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.

    In January of 2003, the Gunrunner’s deployed as a squadron in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. HML/A-269 flew nearly 3000 combat hours in 55 days and maintained 24-hour operations with no personnel losses due to enemy action or mishaps. The squadron fired over (679) PGMs, (5665) 2.75” rockets, (64,106) 20mm rounds, (119,891) 7.62 rounds, and (107,787) .50 cal rounds. Bottom line, Gunrunners delivered deadly fire on enemy positions protecting our Marines as they pressed towards Baghdad.

    Gunrunner Marines have continually set the standard for professionalism, innovation, and mission accomplishment, and have led the way in the light/attack helicopter community. Aggressive training, a pioneering spirit, and inspired leadership have molded HML/A-269 into the tactically minded and combat-ready fighting unit that it is today.