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‘Dealer 54’ honored on USMC flight line

By Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot , Marine Corps Air Station Miramar / 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

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CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (April 20, 2012) — Marines and sailors with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, the “Gunfighters,” gathered at their squadron aboard Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, April 17, 2012, to rededicate their flight line in memory of one of their own.

The Gunfighters mounted a plaque at their flight line entrance in honor of Maj. James “Weasel” Weis, killed in action in Helmand province July 2010. The AH-1W Super Cobra and UH-1Y Huey flight line is now called “Camp Weis.”

Weis, a Super Cobra pilot, was flying a close-air-support mission with Lt. Col. Mario “Sugar Bear” Carazo, for Marines with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, when their helicopter, call sign “Dealer 54,” was shot down by enemy fire. The two veteran pilots were the first Gunfighters to make the ultimate sacrifice in 2010.

The memorial plaque originally honored the Super Cobra and Huey, or “skid,” flight line aboard Forward Operating Base Delaram. Due to consolidation plans, the squadron decided to move the plaque to their flight line aboard Camp Bastion.

“We thought it was appropriate to rededicate the flight line here,” said Lt. Col. Ian Clark, the commanding officer of HMLA-369 and Shelby, Ohio, native. 

The Camp Bastion rotary wing flight line is currently dedicated to Carazo. 

“Never forget your brothers,” said Gunnery Sgt. Eric Werhner, a flight line chief with HMLA-369 and Temecula, Calif., native. Werhner is one of many Gunfighters currently deployed to Afghanistan who were present the day Dealer 54 went down. “This is a great remembrance of a great Marine, a fallen comrade.”

Clark explained that the squadron plans to bring the plaque back to their home base aboard Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., following the eventual end of operations in Afghanistan.

The Gunfighters are scheduled to leave Afghanistan for the last time later this year.

“I’m confident that the reason we had success on this deployment,” said Clark, “is because those two [Carazo and Weis] were watching over us.”