1972-74 I was a young troop in an anti-aircraft unit in 2nd Armored at Ft. Hood, TX. One of our favorite FTX spots was atop a plateau that overlooked the 1st Air Cav's target range.
Sometimes late at night, you'd hear the cobras coming. Pitch black out, you couldn't see 'em. Then suddenly the sky and the ground lit up as tracers and rockets roared. A quick blinding flash and they were gone. We had a lot of respect for the snake.
Our Gulf War era squadron by TOE had two ground troops and two air troops. We ended up deploying with three ground and two air. Up until pre-deployment training we had the production model Cobras called "Prods." That's right, we had VN era Cobras in 1990! The Marines shouldn't feel so bad. The transition to fully modernized Cobras (AH-1F) then went at lightening speed. They also had 20mm rotary cannon, hydra rockets and the rocket management system, TOW, IR suppression system, etc. The downside was a reduced on station time because of increased weight, but IMO our snakes had a much higher operational availability on the battlefield than the Apaches of our two attack battalions. Many teething problems with that bird back in the day. I think back fondly of our snakes, and maybe the Marines should be grateful in hindsight that they had to keep the the Cobra and to maximize its capabilities. It worked out for the best.
Great article. I enlisted in the Marines in 1977, became an officer in 1980 and deployed to Beirut Lebanon in 1982 as part of the Multinational Peacekeeping Force and stayed there through the bombing of the BLT 1/8 HQ building in October 1983. Your article is timely as we're remembering the fallen for our 40th year in Jacksonville NC. My neighbor in Jacksonville back then was a Cobra driver and was on my deployment. Cobras were our friends when we were on patrol. They were always cris-crossing the skies overhead making sure our path ahead was clear. Ya really don't want to be right underneath when they fire up the 20mm guns though. Lots of hot brass. While we were dealing with the Beirut situation, Cobras were front and center in a different action half a world away in Granada. With both of these happening only two days apart, it highlights how and why Marines are called into Ev'ry Clime & Place. Semper Fi