AL ASAD, Iraq -- In the early part of 2003 Marines and other coalition forces began their march towards Baghdad to oust the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. As ground forces led an attack through Iraq’s southern deserts, Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 269 maintained a watchful eye in the sky and responded to many calls as Marines went face to face with the enemy.
The Gunrunners are on their second tour in Iraq, and many of the Marines in the squadron have returned. Lance Cpl. Teddy Brown, an airframes and hydraulics mechanic, is one of those Marines.
When his unit first arrived, in February, he served with the small detachment of Gunrunners in Al Qaim. He joined the larger portion of his squadron here a few months ago. Brown helps ensure all aircraft meet safety standards after every 200 flight hours; this is when the aircraft is pulled from the line for inspection. He’s part of the phase crew, and his department has the tedious task of disassembling all the helicopters and inspecting the parts for wear before the AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1N Hueys are put back in the air.
“We ensure the aircraft are ready for more flying by inspecting every section of it when it comes in,” said the Munising, Mich., native. “I am responsible for all airframe problems. Because of the heat, I spend a lot of my time repairing cracks in the aircraft’s airframe when they come in for inspection.”
Brown joined the Marine Corps in 2001 after graduating Munising High School. Upon completion of his initial training, he reported to the Gunrunners and has been with them ever since.
Remembering his tour from 2003, this deployment is unlike the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“The first time things were a lot different than they are now,” Brown said. “When we were here in 2003 we lived in tents and were truly expeditionary. We were flying an amazing amount of sorties and dropping lots of ordnance. This time we are playing a security role. We are seeing a decrease in the number of attacks to us and a reduced amount of ordnance being used.”
With the drastic change in missions, the Gunrunners are adapting.
“We are doing something right,” Brown said. “We are experiencing less attacks on our base and responding to fewer troops in contact calls. We perform mainly escort missions for the Marines on the ground or other aircraft that don’t have the fire power we have.”
Since his first deployment, Brown became a father and has a new appreciation for families separated by war.
“I was married during the last deployment, but now I am experiencing what all the other Marine fathers do,” said Brown, whose child was born in 2004. “Leaving my wife is hard enough, but now, with my son, I’m missing all kinds of firsts; from his first steps to his first birthday.”
Even with a constant reminder of why he needs to get home, he stays the course and doesn’t let thoughts of home distract him from the mission here.
“He is a key player on our crew,” said Sgt. Raul Gibson, an airframes noncommissioned officer. “Whenever I need something done, I know I can trust him to get it done right, the first time.”
As hard as it is was leave his family, Brown only needs to remember the words his mother to get him through the long, hot days.
“Before I left my mom said, ‘Go and do your job to the best of your ability and come home,’” Brown said. “Simple words, but it was nice to see how my family understands what I have to do and is really supportive of me and my career.”
With Marines like Brown who constantly put their lives on hold for the needs of the Corps, the Gunrunners continue to bring their potent punch to the fight. With the end of their deployment bearing down, they will all be able to return to their loved ones soon. Without them, the squadron would not have been as successful during their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
*For more information about this story please contact Cpl. Alex Herron at email@example.com*