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Red Line Marine Corps News
Story Date: 25 October 2006
Author: Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich
Unit: 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Red Line

HMLA-367 returns to Al Taqaddum mission ready

Al Taqaddum, Iraq — Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 officially returned to Al Taqaddum, Iraq, October 14, taking over the responsibilities of providing close air support and casualty evacuation escort missions from HMLA-169, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).

“Our advance echelon and HMLA-169 really smoothed our transition,” said Maj. Brendan Reilly, executive officer, HMLA-367. “They set us up for success, and we’re really happy with the turnover we received. The aircraft are healthy, and we’re pleased with what we got, given the fact that they have been out here a long time.”

Eighteen months have passed since the Scarface Marines last operated out of Al Taqaddum. While much of their current mission has stayed the same, there are changes.

“I think operationally, CASEVAC still remains the priority in our minds. We’re always excited to save someone’s life out there,” said Reilly, a Philadelphia, native. “The CAS mission has been limited, but we have done some intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.”

While the mission has not changed much for HMLA-367, the insurgents they face have changed their fighting ways since early 2005.

“We’re fairly new here and the (insurgents) have adapted tactics, so we’re always trying to pay attention,” said Reilly. “Our primary concern is the surface-to-air threat.”

The threat of surface-to-air fire is not the only danger for the squadron’s helicopters. Mechanical and electrical failures on the aircraft can bring them down just as easy, but not while the squadron’s maintenance sections are on the job.

“Maintenance on the aircraft is constant, and if it isn’t constant, then it comes in waves,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Ybarra, a UN/AH-1 helicopter airframe mechanic. “Right now, we’re doing well. We haven’t dropped a mission yet, we’re keeping the birds up, and we have backups so that if one needs maintenance, we can have a replacement ready.”

Although the maintainers are optimistic, they know there will be difficulties in the future months for HMLA-367, according to Ybarra.

“The time here has been good so far,” said Ybarra. “Everything is a lot faster than in the rear. We have to get things done quicker, but with the same quality.”

Much like the insurgents changing their tactics on the battlefield, the change of seasons affects the way HMLA-367 maintainers operate.

“I have been doing this for nearly two years and right now is a tough time for (UN/AH-1 helicopter airframe mechanics) because of contaminates in the hydraulics on the aircraft,” said Ybarra. “Especially now that it is the rainy season, we have to pull the aircraft under cover to get stuff done, which slows maintenance down.”

With the approaching Iraqi winter, HMLA-367 Marines will surely bundle up, keeping themselves warm and prepared to provide armed escorts and immediate firepower to coalition forces in need.

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