AL QAIM, Iraq -- The ‘Gunrunners’ of Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 participated recently in Operation Spear, an offensive aimed at rooting out insurgents and foreign fighters and disrupting insurgent support systems in and around Karabilah.
During the four-day offensive the ‘Gunrunners’ provided fire support to troops on the ground and destroyed multiple targets including buildings and vehicles used to conduct attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.
“Insurgents had been operating from that area and had nothing positive to offer to the Iraqi people, only violence and brutality,” said Lt. Col. Joseph M. Jeffrey III, HML/A-269 commanding officer. “By removing the insurgents from Karabilah we effectively took away a sanctuary for their operations.”
Since arriving in Iraq earlier this year the squadron has been operating out of two sites. The majority of their personnel and AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1N Hueys are in Al Asad air base and a detachment of aircraft and personnel is here.
Their usual missions from this base near the Syrian border are to provide close air support, conduct armed reconnaissance and escort convoys. They generally fly over the areas where Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines conduct operations to provide them ‘eyes in the sky.’ According to Jeffrey, Operation Spear required a shift in assets from Al Asad to Al Qaim to support the increased requirements.
“We provided additional maintenance personnel, pilots and aircraft so that we could provide more coverage for the ground forces throughout the day and night,” said Jeffrey, a native of Hueytown, Ala. “Our Marines have always risen to the occasion and this was no exception. They worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep the aircraft mission ready.”
Last month the squadron participated in Operation Matador, an offensive aimed at eliminating Anti-Iraqi Forces, neutralizing their sanctuaries, disrupting planned attacks, and fracturing existing terrorist networks in and around the Euphrates River cities of Karabilah, Ramana and Ubaydi.
“Matador was much faster paced for us,” Jeffrey said. “Spear covered a smaller area and a much more deliberate pace across the ground objectives. In the words of the battalion commanding officer ‘smooth is fast,’ and the operation went exceptionally smooth.”
Jeffrey, who as an experienced Super Cobra pilot took part in the operation himself, said the success was due to the close relationships the “Gunrunners” have established with commanders and staff officers in Regimental Combat Team 2 and 3/2 throughout the deployment.
“These relationships and the close coordination with the battalion air officers have ensured a very detailed understanding of the ground scheme of maneuver, which ultimately allows us to provide the best support,” he said. “I am continually in awe of the performance of my Marines. Stretched across two bases, every Marine’s contribution counts every day. Their focus on the mission, teamwork and attitude is inspirational.”
Known among Marine light/attack helicopter squadrons as “the first and the finest,” HML/A-269 continues to put forth their best effort in contributing to the stability and security of Iraq. The personnel in the unit are committed to the task of eliminating the insurgency that seeks to undermine the progress being made toward freedom and a brighter future for the people of Iraq.