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A crew chief with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369 “Gunfighters” communicates with pilots during a live-fire demonstration on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 1. The unit conducted the demonstration as a part of HMLA-369’s 45th Anniversary celebration and family day. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jake M.T. McClung/Released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jake McClung

45 years in the making: HMLA-369 celebrates anniversary

6 Apr 2017 | Lance Cpl. Liah Kitchen 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Family and friends sat in awe as AH-1Z Vipers and UH-1Y Hueys ripped through the sky with the sound of rotors and machine gun fire.

Marines with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369 “Gunfighters” held a family day in celebration of their 45th Anniversary at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, April 1.

The unit held this event to showcase the aircraft and equipment as well as the hard work and dedication of the Marines.

“Events like these show the Marines in the squadron what all of the hard work they do is for,” said 1st Lt. James Turner, a pilot and a logistics officer with HMLA-369. “Often times, the maintainers put a lot of time into making sure these birds can fly but they never get to see them employed.”

Marines with the squadron conducted a live fire demonstration with two AH-1Z Vipers and two UH-1Y Hueys for members of the Gunfighter family.

“Conducting live-fire demonstrations allows the families to see what the Marines do every day,” said Capt. Daniel Sprott, a pilot with HMLA-369. “They see us leave early in the morning in our uniform but they don’t really understand what we do while we’re at work.”

The squadron also invited Gunfighter veterans to celebrate the 45th anniversary and to observe how the squadron has progressed over the years, said Turner.

Marine Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMA) 369 activated on April 1, 1972, at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa, Japan, and has participated in operations since the Vietnam War. The squadron was relocated to MCAS Camp Pendleton in April 1977.  The squadron redesignated as HMLA-369 in the fall of 1987.

Since that time, the Gunfighters have been involved in operations in Kuwait, Somolia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It was great to see all the past Gunfighters, come out and still be proud to call themselves Gunfighters,” said Turner. “It really demonstrated part of the heritage that we all have stepped into by being a part of this squadron.”

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