CAMP PENDLETON — Marines from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, celebrated the squadron’s two-year anniversary, July 1.
HMLA-469 was created as part of the commandant’s “Grow the Force” initiative, which realigned Marine Corps aviation in addition to activation of three additional HMLA squadrons to the Corps’ fleet.
“We actually checked into MAG-39 headquarters because we had no building to work out of until February,” said Gunnery Sgt. Adam C. Dean, airframes division chief, and the third Marine to check into HMLA-469. “When we came into the building there was nothing in here. We had to order everything starting from the phones to furniture, computers and tools.”
Marines who first checked into the unit had the opportunity of creating a squadron from the ground up.
The squadron’s first members were responsible for turning the building into a home for the Marines. They did everything from painting the building to designing the squadron logo.
“When I first checked in we were preparing for the aircraft,” said Cpl. Nicholas B. Thompson, a ground support equipment mechanic with HMLA-469. “It was fun and exciting, a brand new HMLA.”
The squadron was built fast and effectively by receiving Marines from other squadrons with experience to ensure things were done right, said Dean. Those Marines with experience also served as mentors to a large number of new Marines reporting to their first duty station.
“We had the extremes —a lot of experience and a lot of inexperience,” Dean said. “Now, we have a lot of diversity.”
The squadron was activated on July 1, 2009. Today it houses 16 helicopters and is the largest helicopter squadron on Camp Pendleton with more than 470 Marines.
“It was an honor to be part of a brand new squadron,” Thompson said. “There’s not that many people that get to do that.”
Since their activation in 2009, HMLA-469 deployed once with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and participated in several exercises to train Marines before their first combat deployment.
“Our commanders were really ambitious and tried to get every detachment they came across,” Thompson said. “Everything is accelerated in the squadron like a roller coaster ride, just strap in and go.”
“We’ve come a long way,” Dean said. “Seeing it go from nothing to our first deployment, it’s awesome.”
HMLA-469 is scheduled for its first combat deployment in 2012 to Afghanistan.