News: All fun and games to ensure nobody gets hurt
Story by Cpl. Derek Carlson
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan - War fighting is probably the last thing that comes to mind when asked what dodge ball and talent shows have in common, but the “Gunfighters” of Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 did just that as they took part in a counter-complacency event here Oct. 13.
The squadron, which is primarily responsible for quick-response fire-support to troops in contact, spent the evening laughing, bonding and receiving their annual influenza shots.
“Events like this help us keep our minds off worrying about the troops, the pilots and our families [for a few hours],” said Cpl. Kapono Kuheawa, the runner-up of the talent show for his improvised Hawaiian contemporary musical performance. “Put simply, it’s kind of like taking a test. If you spend too much time worrying about failing, you might make yourself fail … These events help us take a step back and then put our heads back in the game.”
The night was filled with smiles and cheers as dodge balls shot from one side of the hangar to the other. The squadron sports announcer for the night, Capt. Danny Hernandez, kept the morale and motivation high.
It was all laughs during the talent show, as the “Gunfighter Idol” judges’ panel, which included the squadron’s commanding officer and sergeant major, showed no reservations while commentating on the acts of talent, or lack thereof.
According to Maj. Coker, the event coordinator, anti-complacency events were designed as opportunities for the Marines and sailors to engage in physical competition while deployed as part of the squadron's Anti-Complacency Campaign. In addition to the physical competition, the Gunfighter Talent Show also allowed them to compete in a test of talent, wit and imagination.
“Recognizing that complacency is the root of error, the squadron used these rest and refit operations as a way to strengthen our overall unit cohesion and increase our esprit de corps, resulting in greater combat efficiency,” said Coker, the squadron human affairs and administration officer.
This is the fourth counter-complacency event to take place with HMLA-369 during their tour in Afghanistan. Although their tour is near its end, the fourth event was no less important than the first.
The Gunfighters are slated to depart Afghanistan in November and return to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. An advanced party of Marines with HMLA-169 recently arrived on deck to begin taking over operations for HMLA-369. Even though their replacements are on deck, the same dangers are present and the same safety procedures apply as they have since day one of the Gunfighter’s deployment.
“[Marines from HMLA-169] are here, but it’s ‘one team one fight’ for team HMLA,” said Sgt. Maj. Douglas Berry, the squadron sergeant major. “At the end of the day, it’s all about winning and surviving, and we are damn good at it. You should all be proud today,” concluded Berry during his closing remarks of the evening to the squadron.
The evening ended with a ceremony for two Marines from the squadron who received Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals with combat “V” device for actions taken while resupplying special operations Marines in Helmand province June 16.
“[The ceremony] was a great opportunity to recognize the superior performance of our fellow Gunfighters,” said Coker, a Tecoma, Wash., native. “It served as a reminder to the other Marines and sailors of HMLA-369 why we are here and that we need to stay focused on the task at hand.”
Berry stated that several similar awards are still pending due to the events of June 16, which lead to two Marines being rushed to the hospital for injuries sustained while taking enemy fire.
The awards ceremony was a suitable ending to the counter-complacency night - driving home the point of how critical it is to be prepared and alert at all times.