UPDATE: HMLA 369
Prior to the holidays, the San Clemente Tritons pulled together dozens of care packages for the HMLA 369 Unit in Afghanistan. Everything arrived to some very grateful soldiers.
Major P.C. Payne has sent the following letter of thanks:
Athletes, Staff and Families of Triton Football,
_The Marines of HMLA-369 received an amazing amount of support from the Triton’s efforts. Reminders
from home are one of the best things we get to break up the monotony and tedium of our day to day
grind. Coach Ortiz sent some T-Shirts and I’ve got the guys excited to come and watch the Tritons play
next year. I will definitely be there and looking forward to meeting the players. I’m a personal fan of
college football and missed the entire season this year so I have some catch up work to do next fall. _
_Many of you asked about our holiday period and how we celebrated so I will take a second and explain
our schedule. Gunfighters fly the UH-1Y and AH-1W, classified as utility and attack gunships. Our
primary role is Close Air Support (CAS). CAS is defined as the delivery of aerial munitions against enemy
targets in close proximity to friendly forces, such that detailed coordination must exist between aviator
and ground based terminal controllers. In practice this has become a highly procedural business where
the sensors (infrared imagery and camera imagery) on our aircraft are used to locate and positively
identify combatants. Once we identify combatants, we work with ground based terminal controllers to
ensure no civilians or structures will be affected by the delivery of our fires: missiles, rockets and guns.
When the conditions are met in accordance with the rules of engagement, we prosecute targets. _
The Gunfighters offer “Strip” and “Escort” services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Strip alert is an
immediate response to the Marines, Danes, Georgians, Afghans and Special Forces in our area of
operation. When the ground forces declare “Troops in Contact”, taking effective fire from the enemy,
we launch in order to provide the fires listed in the paragraph above. Escort is a task where we provide
protection to medically equipped helicopters who extract injured personnel from the battlefield. Our
enemy does not honor the Geneva Convention and aggressively targets medical responders. As a result,
we provide overhead fires for medical assets to ensure the safety of the aircraft, aircrew and injured
personnel. Escort is also the process of clearing landing zones, providing suppressive fires and being in
position to defend assault support helicopters as they insert ground forces for combat operations.
_On a day to day basis, every Marine works 12 hours on and 12 hours off. We don’t get days off and
find relief by staying in touch with home: watching football games, calling families and the camaraderie
developed through trying circumstances. _
On Christmas day we took some time to celebrate by sharing special foods we received packages like
yours. The Marine Corps is a large melting pot so it was eclectic: Japanese Mochi, smoked salmon,
crackers, olives, European near beer, nuts, chocolates and various other shelf stable delicacies. It was
nice to take an hour off and enjoy the company of the men on our shift.
Train hard, study, and enjoy your time in high school. You are blessed to live in such a unique city, and
have a talented school full of respected educators and coaches!
Maj P. C. Payne