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An AH-1 Super Cobra begins its descent onto a landing zone for re-fueling and re-supplying at Forward Arming and Refueling Point Ouellette, Afghanistan, April 5, 2011. The Vipers of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 transferred their responsibility of providing close air support in Regional Command Southwest to HMLA-267, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, May 19.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Robert R. Carrasco

Pendleton helicopter squadrons transfer authority in Afghanistan

19 May 2011 | Cpl. Rashaun X. James

The Vipers of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 are scheduled to transfer their responsibility of providing close air support in Regional Command Southwest to HMLA-267, at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, May 19.

 Following their seven-month deployment in southwestern Afghanistan, the Marines of HMLA-169 are scheduled to return home to Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif. Following the transfer of authority, a fellow Marine Aircraft Group 39 squadron, HMLA-267, also based out of Camp Pendleton, will begin its first full-force deployment in six years.

 “I am incredibly excited about our Marines finally getting the chance to rally around our squadron flag instead of just a detachment,” said Sgt. Maj. Bill Oldenburg, the HMLA-267 squadron sergeant major. “Our squadron is constantly deployed as detachments, serving the Marine Expeditionary Units out of both southern California and Okinawa, Japan, but since we deployed here as a unit, cohesion has been high and morale even higher. We’ve seen the core cadre of HMLA-267 really come together.”

 Oldenburg along with the squadron’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Matthew Mowery, will be leading the Stingers of HMLA-267 while they serve their tour of duty in Afghanistan supporting Marines and their Afghan and coalition partners with UH-1Y Huey and AH-1W Cobra helicopters.

 “The reception from HMLA-169 was absolutely wonderful,” said Mowery, a native of Troup, Texas. “Everybody, from the wrench turners to the pilots, is ready for the change over.”

 The HMLA-169 Vipers will leave satisfied with the support they’ve provided for ground units in  Regional Command Southwest, explained HMLA-169’s Sgt. Maj. Mark Byrd, a native of Pontiac, Mich.

 “I feel that our time here yielded highly successful results, and that we accomplished all that we have been trained to do,” said Byrd. “I think we did exactly what we set out to do, respond to joint tactical airstrikes and not lose any Marines or aircraft. Having an outstanding maintenance department meant that we were able to do every mission we were called upon to do, because we had the functional aircraft to do so.”

 After HMLA-267 arrived at Camp Bastion, Byrd said one his squadron’s top priorities became to make sure the Stingers had all the tools they needed to take the reins.

 “We’ve done everything we could to set them up for success,” said Byrd. “They will find out sooner than later the effect that the elements can have on these aircraft, but I know they have the right people in place to prevent that from getting in the way of what needs to be done.”

 Oldenburg said he hopes to echo the reputation the outgoing squadron has created for itself, and has set several goals for his own squadron.

 “We are going to continue to fix and fly airplanes as professionals, guarantee we are able to accomplish all tasking from higher, and support the Marines on the ground with every asset we have,” the Poughkeepsie, N.Y. native said. “We are going to be 100 percent on time and on target. We have had a phenomenal reception from HMLA-169 and I have nothing to offer them but my thanks and praise for the work they’ve done here.”

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