CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (4/9/2012) - “‘Gunfighters rule' is
more than a motto, it's a way of life,” said Lt. Col. Ian Clark, the
commanding officer of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369,
at the squadron's 40th anniversary and battle colors ceremony aboard
Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, April 1, 2012.
The sun sets as UH-1Y Huey crews with
Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, the “Gunfighters,” fly
across the flight line on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, April 1, 2012.
The Gunfighters continued combat operations while celebrating their
40th anniversary. Photo by USMC Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
The HMLA-369 “Gunfighters” affixed the Navy Unit
Commendation streamer with four Bronze Stars, the
Meritorious Unit Commendation streamer with three Bronze
Stars, the Afghanistan Campaign streamer with one Bronze
Star and the Iraq Campaign streamer with four Bronze Stars
to the squadron's battle colors.
“We were activated
in combat, during the Vietnam War. Forty years later, on the
birthday, we're in Afghanistan,” said Clark, a Shelby, Ohio,
history dates back to 1972, when the squadron first stood up
to support combat operations in Vietnam. Since then, the
Gunfighters have participated in Operation Desert Shield,
Operation Restore Hope and Operations Enduring Freedom and
“Seeing all those Gunfighters in
formation and the new battle streamers reminded me of all
the Marines who have come before us,” said Sgt. Levi
Bjorkman, the HMLA-369 career planner and Niagara, Wis.,
native. “I feel honored to be a part of Gunfighter history.”
Gunfighter history includes 11 consecutive awards
for safety. The squadron has recently earned the Chief of
Naval Operations Aviation Safety Award for 10,000
mishap-free flight hours for the 11th time.
Currently, the squadron is focusing its efforts on
close-air-support missions, giving other aircraft and
Marines on the ground the security of Gunfighter muscle.
Clark ended the ceremony with a “Gunfighter salute” –
flexing both arms overhead, mimicking the shape of the two
cobras on their squadron patch – instead of a more
traditional salute. Gunfighters perform this salute whenever
their aircraft take off from the flight line. The Gunfighter
salute is yet another unique tradition that sets the
For the Gunfighters' future, Clark
has high hopes.
“The standard that those Gunfighters
of the past have set ... if we could do that for the next 40
years, that would be great.”
By USMC Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
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