USS DENVER, At Sea – Old became new again when members of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 369 found themselves on the decks of amphibious transport dock ship USS Denver (LPD 9), Aug. 6.
Reuniting in the fleet more than 41 years after their first joint mission, HMLA-369 is in the history books as the Marines’ first attack helicopter squadron to conduct offensive air operations. This occurred in 1972 when it operated from Denver, the oldest deployable ship in the fleet, during Operation Marine Hunter Killer (MARHUK) in the Vietnam War.
This time around, HMLA-369 detached 4 AH-1W Super Cobras, 3 UH-1Y Hueys, more than 80 personnel and 19 pallets of gear to reinforce the Dragons of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 (Reinforced) onboard Denver.
“When HMLA-369 came aboard, I welcomed them to Denver,” said Denver’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Lenox. “What I should have said was, 'welcome back. Y'all have been operating off of Denver for the last 41 years.’”
HMLA-369 embarked Denver in the beginning stages of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit’s (MEU) certification exercise (CERTEX) and immediately began conducting simulated air raids, night vision operations, mechanical raids and a variety of other exercises.
“It was a lot of work at the beginning,” said Marine Huey pilot Capt. Bryan Clausen. “It’s new and different.”
For Clausen, who completed two tours in Afghanistan, launching from a ship and operating in a training environment is a change of pace.
The embarkation came about when senior leaders of the Bonhomme Richard ARG, Denver’s parent command, and VMM-265 saw an opportunity to better utilize space between Denver and amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).
While CERTEX wrapped up Aug. 13, members of the squadron still have their work cut out for them with multiple exercises remaining in Northern Australia, including medical evacuation drills and continued routine training.
“The Huey’s have a lot left,” said Clausen. “We’re about half-way, maybe half-way.”
HMLA’s embarkation is in support of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group’s (ARG) and 31st MEU’s current joint-force operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
Denver is currently on patrol with the Bonhomme Richard ARG, commanded by Capt. Cathal O’Connor, commodore, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 and reports to the Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.