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Members of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369 “Gunfighters,” walk to a UH-1Y Huey before a familiarization flight aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 16. Pilots and crews fly with the aircraft as often as possible to build proficiency that would benefit Marines on the ground should they ever need their support.

Photo by Cpl. Christopher Johns

Gunfighters take basics to heart for familiarization training

17 Oct 2014 | Cpl. Christopher Johns 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

UH-1Y Huey pilots and crews with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369 “Gunfighters,” took to the air for familiarization training aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., Oct. 16.
Although this training occurs fairly often, it allows pilots and crew members, or those who haven’t flown in a while, a chance to gain valuable time flying the aircraft.
“We focused on the basics,” said Capt. Matt Blose, a Huey pilot with the Gunfighters. “If we’re out of the cockpit for a while, we can become a little rusty – kind of like not riding a bike for a while.”
The first portion of the familiarization flight consisted of maneuvers and confined area landings, what Blose called, “the basics.” Crew chiefs and pilots worked together to ensure they were safe from other aircraft, power lines and obstacles on the ground while landing.
“We’re there to keep the pilots informed on how the aircraft is compared to obstacles or threats, because they don’t have a 360 degree view of their surroundings,” said Sgt. John Petersen, a crew chief with the Gunfighters. “We help keep them honest.”

Later on, pilots relied on crew chiefs and their instruments alone to fly, much like they would in poor weather. No matter the conditions, Gunfighters get teams into hard to reach areas, or provide support to other aircraft bringing Marines or supplies to where they are needed.
Blose, Petersen and their peers know how important their missions can be to the Marine Corps and the Marines on the ground fighting.
“If we aren’t proficient at what we do, we aren’t providing the best product we can to men on the ground; that could kill them,” said Petersen.
Providing the best product possible is something Blose takes great pride in.
“It’s a great feeling to know I can be there to support the guys on the ground,” said Blose. “Working with guys in the back of the aircraft with a lot of experience, having a great team and making sure they get back safe and get to come home at the end of the day is just great.”