Rattler/Firebird Association



A veteran – whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to and including my life.”

“Like the book said, we may be through with the past but the past is not through with us!”

“Veteran” It‘s not that I can and others can‘t. It‘s that I did and others didn‘t!


In August a new address directory will be mailed to you. If any of your info has changed, please email me at [email protected] ASAP.

If you order any merchandise from our Association, use only the order form in this newsletter or the one on our website. There are serveral items we no longer have in stock and some prices have changed.

On April 10, 2023, Fort Rucker, Alabama was officially renamed Fort Novosel. The home of the Army Aviation Cener of Excellence and Army Aviation since 1954 was renamed in honor of Army Chief Warrant Office 4 Michael J. Novosel, a Master Army Aviator who flew combat in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam saving more than 5,500 Solders lives, and who received the Medal of Honor for a MEDEVAC mission under fire in Vietnam where he saved 29 soldiers. He was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 1975 and passed away on April 6, 2006 at the age of 83.

“The Public Affairs Officer for the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Lewis, WA, has issued a call to Veterans who served under the 16th Combat Aviation Group in Vietnam from 1968 to 1971. They have established a Hall of Heroes, and want to display citations for Valor/Heroism Awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross and above, along with a picture of the recipients. No Social Security Numbers or Service Numbers will be displayed, and no orders will be retained once the citation has been transcribed to a plaque. Official Military photos would be best, followed by a photograph from Vietnam, and/or a suit and tie. Questions and responses can be coordinated through Doug Womack at [email protected] or 410-739-5943.”

Vic Bandini reported that this “Hall of Heros” was especially interested in any enlisted men who qualify for inclusion.



The 15th Rattler-Firebird Reunion is in the books. For thirty years we have been meeting as brothers in arms. There were 86 men from the unit in attendance with about 200 at the banquet Saturday night.

Our excursions started Thursday with the bus trip to Randolph AFB sponsored by LTC Chris Jackson. Chris had Col Joe Milligan assisting him. Col. Milligan was a POW in Vietnam for six years, having ejected from a flaming F-4 Phantom, suffering some severe burns. We were allowed to examine a T-38 Talon supersonic traning jet in which Chris has logged over 3500 hours. He also has over 1000 hours in the F-15 Eagle. We viewed their wall of heroes and learned all things Air Force.

The Highlight if this tour was being allowed to “fly” the T-38 in a simulator. Everyone that wanted to do this had an opportunity.

A tour bus went to Fredericksburg on Friday to tour the Museum of the Pacific. Admiral Chester Nimitz was raised in Fredericksburg, making this an excellent choice for this display.

Thursday afternoon the ladies meeting was conducted by Kathy Bowen. A $50 gift card was won by Cheryl Parcher and a $25 gift card by Kathy Theberge. Julie Wells has volunteered to lead this meeting in the future and be assisted by Jennie Maryliw and Kathryn Hasley.

On Friday night, two buses went to the Knibbe Ranch for viewing a pre-historic archeology dig site and seeing a very rare known buffalo jump site. This is where the people would herd buffalo off a cliff in order to obtain this food source.

We saw the ranch’s herd of cattle, and then had a down home BBQ brisket dinner. After this we were entertained by a very talented trick rope artist. Chico Marcano’s daughter and grandson took and active role in the demonstration.

Saturday morning of our reunions is a special time to honor our 55 KIAs as they should be. The roll was called with the audience answering for each man. This is followed by Taps and Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA.” I wish to commend everyone for being in the room beofre the start of this event.

Paul Gamsby attended his first ever reunion. At the Memorial Service, Paul was given the specific opportunity to answer for the two men who died on his aircraft on 20 February 1966. This was Aircraft Commander Marshall Ray (Lefty) Frizzell and Crew Chief Richard P. Lancaster Jr.

Our business meeting followed this with the election of your Board of Directors. The officers include Ron Seabolt, National Director, Johnnie Hitt, Deputy National Director, and Chuck Carlock, Secretary/Treasurer. Members at large are Greg Arndt, Paul Teelin and newly elected Kerry “Lil’ Mac” McMahon, replacing Don Lynam due to term limits.

Vic Bandini gave a presentation concerning the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, Ft. Lewis, WA. This info is under “Odds & Ends” at the start of this newsletter.

Our group photo followed this meeting.

Tour buses then took separate grous to a barge trip downtown and to a scenic tour of The Alamo and other sites.

Saturday Evening, our cocktail hour was followed by the Saturday night banquet. Vic Bandini, our Reunion Committee Chairman, started the evening by having Captain Terry Igoe order the color guard consisting of Greg Arndt, “Wally” Waldrip, Randy Thomas, and Doug Starkey present the colors. The Pledge of Allegiance was supposed to be followed by The National Anthem recording by Christie Phillips. An individual stood and sang God Bless America. Later the National Anthem was sung led by Susan Winfield. Thank you Susan for completing our opening ceremonies! Our meal was blessed by Rev. Eric Kilmer.

Vic Bandini then presented our own Frank Anton with a replica of the honor of Frank being our first unit member to grace the walls of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade Hall of Heroes. Bottles of the fine wine, “Rotor Head Red” were on each table courtesy of Hal Bowen and a toast raised to our POWs. Dinner was served.

The raffle drawing took place as dessert was finished. The first number drawn belonged to Doug Lane who took a tail rotor chain bracelet. “Lil Mac” McMahon chose a metal US Army Emblem. Kilfred Wally selected the survival knife. Susan Winfield chose the $200 gift card. Kathryn Hasley took home the framed “In God We Trust”. Ron Anderson picked up the 2nd tail rotor chain bracelet and Trish Igoe got the “Vietnam Wall” statue.

Ron Seabolt then made his presentations of awards. The Jesus Nut award went to the person who has traveled the furthest to be with us. This was Roger Theberge from Hallowell, ME a distance of 2241.5 Miles.

The Unsung Hero Award goes to recognize persons whose primary job in ietnam was not as a flight crew member. John Bracken was this year’s winner.

The Rattler Legend Award went to a man who held several positions in our unit. He was first, Rattler 1-9, then our XO Rattler 5. For two weeks he was our Company Commander, Rattler 6. Finally he was our Firebird Platoon Leader, Firebird 9-6. Since 2002 this man has given us the best website our there. I’m talking about Gary White, Rattler Legend!

Due to medical problems, Gary White is training Vic Bandini to be our new webmaster.

After Vic Bandini made some special recognitions, he introduced our guest speaker LTC Chris Jackson. Chris is the son of our ‘66-’67 beloved platoon leader Major George Jackson. Chris delivered a stirring speech, using visual slides that espoused air power in all its forms. When he opened the floor for questions, someone asked him why he called Ron Seabolt “Radar”. I stood and explained that as a 4th grader I was bean pole skinny with ears that stuck straight out, hence the name “Radar!” I still answer to that name. Chris made a presentation to Ron Seabolt of the flight wings his dad wore in Vietnam. We were talking after being adjourned, and Chris lifted his lapel revealing the master aviator wings his dad last wore.

Rev. Kilmer offered the closing prayer, ending another fine reunion.

I failed to mention the many contributions made to this reunion by Vic Bandini. Vic spends hours and hours getting ready for our reunion to be the success it is. Thank you Vic Bandini!

On Friday evening of the reunion, one of our men, Gene Britt, became ill and was transported to the hospital. The medical staff discovered an instestinal blockage for which an operation was the only course of action. On Saturday afternoon three of us packed Gene’s room up and on Sunday Mike Ricker delivered it to the hospital. Many of us have checked on Gene this week and on Thursday (the 18th) Gene was back home in Georgia. The Note below was received from Gene.

Thanks to all the Guys. I was a long way from home and hurt like H@@@. The calls from the many members did mean alot. I got back home the afternoon on the 18th. I have several things to get done; the first things are finding two new Doctors. A big thanks again.

I talked to Gene on May 27th and he was doing well having just had the metal staples removed from his abdomen.

Throughout the reunion we were selling raffle tickets to raise money. I know two individuals who bought 300 each. Hal Bowen had brought six extra bottles of “Rotor Head Red” to sell for the Association. Ila (Ms Johnnie) Hitt bought all six for $450.



It was the middle of April 1967. I was flying co-pilot with the late Will Hingston. (Firebird 98) Bill Reynolds was the door gunner and Martinez was the crew chief. (We called him pineapple cause he was from Hawaii) We had a heavy fire team (three gunships) in support of the “A” team SF camp on the border Southwest of Chu Lai. We were keeping 2 ships on station while 1 would go refuel at that little outpost South of Chu Lai. (the name has left me over time). We had just refueled and I was taking off and we had a very slow rate of climb as we were way over loaded as usual. It was a beautiful day weather wise and we had experienced zero contact with the enemy. I said to Will that if every day was like this, this would be great duty. (wrong)

As soon as I said those words I heard the cracks of automatic weapon rounds go by. I thought he was at 9 o’clock and he’s not leading us so I nosed over to head for the deck and low level. (turns out he was at 12 o’clock low) It was at that moment I heard a loud “WHOP” and the instrument panel and everything else just disappeared. (this all happened in about a half second)

The first thing I felt was the stick moving in my hand as Will was trying to take control. My right wrist hurt like hell and my right knee felt like somebody hit it with a hammer. I couldn’t see anything and the right side of my face felt like I had been slapped with a 2x4. I think I was about half there but I could hear everything that was going on. I heard Will make the radio call saying “Firebird 98 is going to Chu Lai with a wounded pilot. I remember thinking “oh s--t I know who that is”. Then I heard Reynolds say “He’s dead he got hit right between the eyes”. At that point I thought I might be in big trouble. Reynolds told me later that my head snapped like it was on the end of a whip. I could feel Will reaching across the radio console grabbing my right shoulder and yelling “Davey damnit Davey” along with other expletives used in the military method of communication. (LOL) This was one of the only times I ever heard Will get excited because he always seemed so calm under fire. At this time I began to get back to myself and see out of my left eye and blurred out of my right eye. My right eye had blood in it and my helmet was knocked crooked. I could see some blood spatters on the instrument panel. I then found the floor transmit button and asked Will how bad do I look. He said he couldn’t tell there was too much blood. At this point I became more than mildly concerned and asked if I was bleeding to death. He replied “Oh no it’s not that bad.” I could tell that Martinez was opening the med kit, taking off my helmet and putting a bandage on the right side of my face. At this point I realized that I was just banged up and not hurt too bad. I was trying to figure out why my ribs on my right side were hurting and I found where a bullet had hit my right chest, went through my flack vest, and stuck in my chickenboard. (body armor)

My right side ribs turned black and blue. We landed at the medevac pad at Chu Lai and the two medics there seemed to be wondering why a gunship was landing on their pad. They then ran over and tried to pull Will out and he explained to them in no uncertain terms that it was the guy with all the blood on him. They came over and opened my door and Martinez had to shove them away so he could pull the seat armor plate back. Then they grabbed me and tried to pull me out and I had to tell them it would be handy if I unfastened my belts first. They helped me out and were trying to half carry me to the back of the ambulance. I shook them off and said I’m walking to the ambulance. After all I am a “Firebird”. The vehicle had to go up this little hill and I’m in the back with one of the medics. I guess I was going into a little shock and my hands were shaking so bad I couldn’t light a cigarette. At that point the medic said “You’ve had a bit of a bad day haven’t you sir”. I ask him if he would please light my smoke. Well when I got in the hospital there were guys, kids really, that had really had bad days. Well they x rayed me, pulled pieces of metal out of my face and wrist and checked me over from top to bottom. A surgeon was standing there and he was Alan Alda straight out of “Mash” with shorts and a dirty Hawaiian shirt. He was taking a knife and pulling pieces of shrapnel from my flack vest and asked me if I wanted any of the pieces. You can imagine what my reply was. He then said “Mr Ellingsworth we are going to keep you over night”. I said “Why, I walked in here”. He told me it was because I was going to get infection. I said if I’m going to get infection why can’t I go back to my unit and get infection there. I know now that that really sounded stupid but they had enough guys in there that were really hurt bad and they didn’t need me. He asked if we had a medic that could change the dressings and check me and I said sure but we didn’t. Any way he sent me out the door with a bunch of bandages and a bottle of peroxide. I got outside and I’m standing there with my helmet, flack vest, body armor, and bandages wondering what am I going to do now. Just then Mel Jones (Firebird 92) drove up in a jeep to find out if I was dead, being sent to Japan, or whatever else. I get in the jeep and we headed back to the snake pit. For some reason we went by operations and the operations officer (Major Ed Johnson) and the operations NCO (can’t remember the name) were having an argument over notifying next of kin. The NCO was saying we need to know how bad it is first and Major Johnson said he heard the radio call and he knew it was bad. Well the NCO pointed at me and said why don’t you ask him. Ed Johnson looked at me and said “Oh hi Davey, kind of a rough day”. Well at least I got a few days off for all of that. I was really sore for a while. All I had was a little piece in my right knee cap, a piece in my right wrist, a piece of metal by my right eye, bruised ribs, and some whiplash. I also came out of it with the realization that we Firebirds were not bullet proof.

It was not funny at the time but now some of it really gets a laugh. It’s almost disappointing that I don’t have a big scar to show. Notice I said ALMOST. To Will Hingston “Rest in peace my brother”!



After I finished high school, I was just doing odd jobs trying to decide what I wanted to do as a career. I did want to join the Air Force and fly jets, but I did not have the money or desire to go to college. Uncle Sam came to my rescue. I was invited to join their team to see the world, visit exotic places, and meet interesting and friendly people. I did not want to meet those “friendly” people on the ground face to face. So, I went to my local Army recruiter and said that I wanted to fly helicopters. He said, “Sure son, I will sign you up for flight school.” Now I know that some of us heard horror stories about how some thought they were signing up for a specific school only to find out they were really going to be grunts. That was not the case for me. I trusted the recruiter completely. I will explain why in a minute. I took the aviation test and lo and behold, by some small miracle, I passed it. I must have had some “Fatherly” help. As Paul Harvey used to say, “Now, the rest of the story.” The reason I trusted the recruiter was because he was my dad. Now, about that fatherly help. I had heard my dad talking to my mom several times about how he had to change answers on the test so that the person enlisting could get the school that they wanted. I always wondered if I was one of those people. I thought about asking him about it many times, but I knew that he would just say that I passed it without his help. Then, I would just wonder if he was telling the truth. So, to this day, I am still wondering. When you got close to graduating from flight school, we had to submit what duty station we wanted and what we wanted to fly. My three choices for the duty station were Vietnam and my three choices for what I wanted to do was to fly medivac. At that time my dad was stationed in Vietnam, so the army sent me to Gray AAF outside Fort Hood, Texas. When I reported in, I was surprised to find out it was a new company, and they didn’t have any helicopters to fly yet. That meant we had a lot of idle time on our hands. Lucky for me, I was introduced to a young and debonair captain. He took me under his wing and taught me how to drink vast volumes of alcohol and still be able to stand upright. When he thought I was able to go it alone, he left for Vietnam.

A couple of months later, my dad returned stateside. I called my monitor and asked to get orders to Vietnam which he gladly issued. They also sent me to Huey IP school before going to Vietnam.

After getting off the DC-8 in Cam Ranh Bay and getting on the school bus with wire on the windows, I wondered if I had made a mistake. When I finished the indoctrination, they sent me up to I Corp. When I was checking in to the battalion, I got a big surprise. No, it wasn’t a band of angels coming to take me home. It was that young and debonair captain, Johnnie Hitt. He was there for a briefing. Did he say “Hi” or “how are you doing”, or “When did you get here”? No, he said, “You are coming with me”. He marched me into admin and told them that I was going to the 71st. So, that is how I became a Rattler. He is also responsible for me becoming a commissioned officer. I was offered a direct commission to 1st Lieutenant, and I did not know if I should take it or not. Johnnie suggested that if I was unsure about staying in the Army, it would be better if I was a commissioned officer instead of a warrant. I wound up taking it. But I did not hold a grudge for long and I have forgiven him. As it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise. I received an early out from active duty. Since I still wanted to be a jet jock, I visited the Air Force recruiter to find out the requirements to qualify. He said that they still required a college degree, and my best choice would be to get two years of credit and then join the ROTC program for the last two years. When I finished the first two years, I went to apply for the program and was told that the Air Force was not accepting any prior service commissioned officers including the ones from the Air Force. So that is why I decided to join the Marines. I owe Johnnie two big thank you. First for making me a Rattler, and second, unknowingly, helping me to become a Marine.