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Waiting on 'skid row' an AH-1W Super Cobra soaks up the setting desert sunlight April 24 at Al Asad, Iraq. This slim- bodied war machine belongs to the Gunrunners of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 who will be providing constant on-call close air support. The Gunrunners operate under the umbrella of Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach

Gunrunners support air, ground forces at Al Asad

5 May 2006 | Lance Cpl. Brandon L. Roach

A distinctive beating is heard overhead as two attack helicopters circle ground forces patrolling the western Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

The slim, grasshopper-like powerhouses and barrel-chested gunships belong to the pioneers of close air combat support, the Gunrunners of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 269, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

Both the AH-1W Super Cobra and the UH-1N Huey, are organic to the squadron. The aircraft, as a team, are capable of distributing massive amounts of firepower to both ground and air opposing forces.

The Gunrunners returned to their home away from home to once again patrol the skies, after a short five months in the states.

According to the official website for the Gunrunners at www.2maw.usmc.mil/MAG29/HMLA269, the Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.-based squadron was activated July 1, 1971, as the first designated attack helicopter squadron.

With 35 years in service, the squadron has been the leaders in several technological advances throughout their time.

They have been the first Marine Corps squadron to fire the tube launched, optically tracked, wire guided anti-tank missile from an airborne platform, the first to fire the sidewinder air-to-air missile and many more.

The Gunrunners have received numerous awards including the Marine Corps helicopter squadron of the year in 1986, 1995 and 1998 for their achievements during operations. 

With several deployments to Iraq in the history books, the Gunrunners are now here for their third time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Their deployment to Iraq will last seven months and they are ready to return if they get the call.

"Our mission while deployed is to provide (around the clock) on-call close air support and casualty evacuation escorts from Al Asad and Camp Korean Village," said Lt. Col. Jon M. Hackett, executive officer, HMLA-269.

"We also support a variety of specific planned operations including escorts for raids, convoys and reconnaissance missions."

With an extremely high operations tempo, the squadron has exceeded its re-enlistment goals almost two months ahead of schedule. "Although tired, the Marines remain motivated to get the job done," said Hackett. "They have never let us down."

With the more than 200 Marines deployed to Iraq the flight of the Super Cobras and Hueys will continue to provide support for air and ground operations during OIF.
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing