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Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169
[[File:HMLA-169 insignia|240x240px|frameless}}|HMLA-169 insignia|alt=]]
HMLA-169 insignia
  • September 30, 1971 - present
Country United States
Allegiance United States of America
Branch United States Marine Corps
Type Light/Attack squadron
Role Close Air Support
Part of Marine Aircraft Group 39
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
Garrison/HQ Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton
Nickname(s) "Vipers"
Motto(s) "World Famous Vipers, perhaps you have heard of us?" "We hate each other , but we hate you more."
Tail Code SN
Mascot(s) Bak-Bak
Engagements Operation Desert Storm
Operation Restore Hope
Operation Iraqi Freedom
* 2003 invasion of Iraq
* Battle of Najaf
* Operation Phantom Fury
Operation Enduring Freedom
LtCol James Isaacs

Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 (HMLA-169) is a United States Marine Corps helicopter squadron consisting of AH-1Z SuperCobra attack helicopters and UH-1Y Huey utility helicopters. The squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, California and falls under the command of Marine Aircraft Group 39 (MAG-39) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW).


Support the Marine Air-Ground Task Force commander by providing offensive air support, utility support, armed escort and airborne supporting arms coordination, day or night under all weather conditions during expeditionary, joint or combined operations.


1970s and 80sEdit

Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 was activated as Marine Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 (HMA-169) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, on September 30, 1971. Unlike its sister squadrons, HMA-269 and HMA-369, HMA-169 was initially equipped with AH-1G Cobras. During 1974-75 the squadron transitioned to the more capable AH-1J Sea Cobra. The AH-1Gs were transferred out by July 1976.

Through the 1970s, HMA-169 engaged in rigorous amphibious training at sea and combined exercises ashore. The 1980s brought increased operational commitments and a growing legacy of aviation safety milestones. On October 1, 1986, the re-designated HMLA-169 had all 24 of their advanced AH-1T (TOW) cobras phased out which were replaced with 12 of the new AH-1W (Super Cobra). These were complimented with 12 UH-1N Hueys, increasing the Vipers' capabilities commensurate with the needs of the Marine Air Ground Task Force. This made HMLA-169 the first operational Marine Corp squadron to deploy the new Super Cobra both at home and overseas on deployment.

Gulf War and the 1990sEdit

From December 1990 to June 1991, HMLA-169 embarked aboard the USS Tarawa in support of combat operations in Southwest Asia, and deployed ashore during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with MAG-50 at Tanajib, Saudi Arabia. From February 24 to March 4, 1991, the Vipers flew 234 combat sorties engaging enemy Iraqi forces without loss of aircraft or personnel. Returning from the Kuwaiti theater, the squadron was routed to assist in humanitarian relief to flood-ravaged Bangladesh as part of Operation Sea Angel. Shortly after that the squadron participated in the humanitarian assistance mission Operation Fiery Vigil, after Mount Pinatubo erupted June 15, 1991. In May 1992, HMLA-169 supported local law enforcement during the Los Angeles riots, and again in 1993 conducted humanitarian relief and peace-keeping operations in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope.

Global War on TerrorEdit

HMLA-169 sourced a detachment of 4 Cobras and 3 Hueys to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit ( 15th MEU), which was the among the first Marines into Afghanistan after 9/11. The squadron deployed to Iraq in late February 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). During the 2003 invasion of Iraq 12 of the 18 AH-1Ws of the unit sustained battle damage[1] and on March 30, 2003 a UH-1N Huey crashed; killing three members on board.[2] HMLA-169 deployed again in the summer of 2004 to support the second iteration of OIF. During this deployment they provided close air support during the Battle of Najaf and Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah. The squadron is presently configured with 18 AH-1W SuperCobras and 9 UH-1Y SuperHueys. HMLA-169 again deployed to Iraq in March 2006 to provide close air support for the 1st Marine Division in Al Anbar province.[3][4] The squadron was deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2009 as part of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.[5] They will be part of the 17,000 troop increase announced by President Obama in mid-February.[6]

Unit awardsEdit

A unit citation or commendation is an award bestowed upon an organization for the action cited. Members of the unit who participated in said actions are allowed to wear on their uniforms the awarded unit citation. HMLA-169 has been presented with the following awards:

RibbonUnit Award
US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation
Joint Meritorious Unit Award
Navy Unit Commendation ribbon
Navy Unit Commendation with four Bronze Stars
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Meritorious Unit Commendation with four Bronze Stars
National Defense Service Medal ribbon
National Defense Service Medal with two Bronze Stars
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Southwest Asia Service ribbon
Southwest Asia Service Medal with three Bronze Stars
Iraq Campaign ribbon
Iraq Campaign Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global war terrorism service ribbon
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

See alsoEdit



PD-icon.svg This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
  • Visconage, Michael D. & Harris, Carroll N. "Third Marine Aircraft Wing - Operation Iraqi Freedom". Marine Corps Association, 2004.

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