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Photo by Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

Cobras strike in support of border fight

30 May 2005 | Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis

The quiet air of the camp is broken as the whoop-whoop of two AH-1W Super Cobras taking to the sky fills the area.

The Coyotes of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 775 are off, again, to support the Marines on the ground.

Since their arrival here at the end of March, the small detachment of Coyotes has been providing close air support with their Super Cobra attack helicopters.

“We are here to support Marines along the Syrian and Jordanian borders,” said 1st Sgt. George J. Blackham IV, detachment first sergeant and native of Gibsonia, Pa. “We are their primary means of close air support for convoys, raids, casualty evacuation, and other ground operations.”

With infantrymen from the 2nd Marine Division manning remote outposts and conducting ground operations against foreign fighters along the borders, close air support remains vital to their success.

“We serve as a deterrent force,” said Maj. Michael H. Ward, AH-1W Super Cobra pilot and native of Columbus, Ohio. “In the event we are needed, we have the fire-power to serve as an offensive force for those Marines on the ground.”

With only a fraction of the Marines of the squadrons’ main body, which is currently serving in Al Taqaddum, the Korean Village Coyotes are working each day to ensure the Cobra’s strike.

“Our birds are dedicated around the clock to support the ground mission,” said Lance Cpl. Nathan G. Minarchick, flightline mechanic and native of West Decatur, Pa. “We need to have all the aircraft up so that when we get the call, we are ready to go.”

Based out of Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Johnstown, Pa., the Coyotes have been activated since January 2004. In March 2004, the Coyotes deployed for the first time to Al Taqaddum and Camp Korean Village for six months in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Marines of HML/A-775 represent each military duty status: active duty, reserves and active reserves.

“Since our activation, things have come together nicely,” said Lt. Col. Michael B. McNeil, detachment officer-in-charge and native of Shelton, Conn. “It’s like a seamless blend, and regardless of their duty status, they are coming together to accomplish the mission.”

Because of their small size, the Korean Village Coyotes are gaining experience in all the aspects of aviation maintenance. Minarchick said cross-training the Marines helps out in other areas and expedites the maintenance process.  

“Everybody learns from each other, so that we can help each other out to accomplish the mission,” said Lance Cpl. Frank L. Luhn, avionics technician and native of Columbus, Ga. “We depend on each other and work together, even if it’s not in our specialty.”

As the Coyotes reach their halfway point in the deployment, they remain focused on providing the best air to ground support for the Marines stopping the flow of anti-Iraqi forces into the country.

“When we see these infantry Marines around the camp, they come up and thank us,” Blackham said. “They tell us, ‘when we call for air cover, you guys are there.’ That means a lot to us, knowing that we are making a difference.”

*For more information about the Marines or news reported on in this story, please contact Cpl. Rocco DeFilippis by e-mail at defilippisrc@acemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil*

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