Sunday, April 6, 2008

A tradition of excellence: Warriors celebrate four decades of success

Cpl. Scott McAdam

AL ASAD, Iraq (April 1, 2008) – Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 167, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing celebrated its 40th anniversary here April 1.

The Warriors, originally Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 167, were founded aboard Marble Mountain Air Facility in the Republic of Vietnam on April 1, 1968, under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 16.

This ceremony is unique because we are celebrating our 40th anniversary in a combat zone under the command of MAG-16 once again, explained Capt. Somer A. Chambley, UH-1N Huey pilot, HMLA-167.

Though the war today is much different than the war 40 years ago, the squadron’s mission remains the same – to support coalition forces.

“Our mission is to provide offensive air support, utility helicopter support, armed escort and airborne supporting arms coordination during naval expeditionary operations or joint and combined operations,” said Chambley.

“Often times the squadron would provide several of these same missions as part of the same operation,” she added. “Our squadron patch, which closely resembles our original patch, has symbolism that represents all these varied missions.”

As with any other element of the Marine Corps, every mission the Warriors accomplish supports Marine infantrymen on the ground.

“There is no doubt that the men and women on the ground are carrying the heavy load of this conflict,” Chambley said. “They are taking the fight to the enemy.”

Throughout their history, the Warriors have accomplished many firsts and participated in numerous significant operations around the globe.

During the squadron’s deployment to Vietnam, Lt. Col. T.F. Miller, then commanding officer of HML-167, dropped the first helicopter bomb using the Helicopter Trap Weapon. In May of 1971, HML-167 was the last operating helicopter squadron in Vietnam, completing over 60,000 combat flight hours during the war.

“Utility helicopter support was our bread and butter during Vietnam –fulfilling a wide range of missions in support of friendly forces,” said Chambley.

After returning from Vietnam, the squadron received the Marine Corps’ first UH-1N Huey, becoming the initial UH-1N squadron for the Marine Corps. With the new airframe, HML-167 also acquired the responsibilities as the training squadron and model manager for the UH-1N.

Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 167 received its first AH-1T Cobra in January 1984 and became the first light/attack squadron on April 1, 1986.

Though the squadron switched designation, their mission didn’t change; it only expanded with the addition of the AH-1 and improved technology.

“Today, we still do those same missions, but we also provide an anti-armor capability and forward air controller capability,” added Chambley.

In 1989, the squadron added three AH-1W Super Cobras to their already deadly arsenal.

One year later, HMLA-167 supported the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit with the evacuation of more than 3,000 American citizens and foreign nationals from Monrovia, Liberia, the largest non-combatant evacuation since Saigon in 1975.

Other large operations HMLA-167 took part in include: Operation Urgent Fury, Beirut, and Desert Storm, in addition to several Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable) and Marine Air Ground Task Force deployments.
In 2004, the Warriors deployed to Al Asad Air Base as a full squadron and are currently on their fourth deployment in support of OIF.

Through the last four decades, the Marines with HMLA-167 have demonstrated success and look forward to future accomplishments.

“I could not be more proud of this squadron and of our history,” said Lt. Col. Michael E. Watkins, commanding officer, HMLA-167. “I believe the high-caliber of people we have in the squadron are the right ones to carry on our fine history and traditions.”

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