CO. A/501 AVIATION BN., 71st ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY NEWSLETTER
VOL. XX NUMBER 2 ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 2014
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!”
ODDS and ENDS
On November 3rd, a tail rotor chain bracelet that was on Ebay had 48 bids and sold for $405.00.
At the reunion last June a plea was made for anyone who so desired to donate funds to our Association. Our income from memberships is minimal because most of our members are life members. Every two years we get a boost at the “Company Store” from sales but we really needed more than that.
Our members came through like gangbusters with their donations and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
This newsletter needs your stories. When we have to resort to printing a Ron Seabolt basic training story, you know we are dragging the bottom of the barrel.
This is not a promotion, just a FYI. A former Firebird pilot, James H. Dixon (WO 65), who died 20 January 2012, had written a novel that is available on Amazon.com. The book title is The Secret War a Melungeon Brothers Thriller.
If you decide to order anything from the Association, please use the order form on this newsletter. Some prices have changed and new items added.
Our contract has been signed by all parties for a return to the Marriott DFW Airport South, 4151 Centreport Boulevard, Ft Worth, TX. The dates are May 18-22, 2016. The room rates did not change from $109 plus 15% taxes. Our banquet meal went from $40 to $42 each. Our beer prices went up slightly but as you know that will not affect our members directly.
No reservations can be made before 18 June 2015
This hotel treated us very well this past summer and this location was a wonderful labor saving site for the organizers. The helicopters and memorabilia are located about 30 minutes away and the Association headquarters and Company Store is about one hour away. We’ve seen worse!
Please start making plans to attend this reunion. It will be the 50th anniversary of our tours for many of us.
- Vernon Albert (WO 65) passed away on 14 September 2014 from a long battle with cancer.
- Robert W. (Bob) Laird passed away on 11 November 2014 from a massive heart attack.
Our VA compensation rates and social security benefits will both increase by a 1.7% cost of living raise for 2015.
Next time you visit your primary doctor at the VA, you might want to ask for a shingles vaccine. My understanding of this is that it is good for life. I have often heard that this is a $300 item for civilians if you do not have insurance.
On my last visit to my primary doctor I was also offered a pneumonia vaccine that is good for five years.
LOOKING FOR A SAFE JOB
By Wally Honda (WO 69-70)
May 22, 2011
In early January of 1970, I was starting to get short. I had seven months into my tour and had to decide what I was going to do for my future. After finishing this tour, I had another two year commitment to the army. The SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) at that time was that aviators would finish their tour, serve a year stateside, and return for a second tour in Vietnam. I didn’t want to return for another tour. I calculated that if I extended my tour for six months, and spent my mandatory year in the states, the army would not send me back to Vietnam with only six months left before ETS (Estimated Time of Service). For me, it was simple. I would take my chances and spend another six months at Chu Lai.
One thing for sure, I knew that I was getting tired of flying slicks and getting shot at on a daily basis. In the back of my mind, I was trying to find a safer job. I thought about flying gunships; at least, I could fire back and would not have to helplessly sit in a hot LZ. Realistically, I knew that it didn’t matter whether I was getting shot at while airborne or sitting on the ground; but for me, I felt more vulnerable as a stationary target.
Early in my career, while sitting in a hot LZ, I will never forget watching the NVA soldiers shooting at me from the tree line. While the troops were departing the helicopter, we had to wait for the helicopters in front to make their departure. The wait seemed like an eternity. I kept looking at the flashes as I imagined the rounds hitting me in the head. I started to squirm to the left, then to the right, and then crouch to make me a smaller target. I quickly came to realize that no matter what I did, if the rounds were going to hit me, there was nothing I could do to prevent it; “one place was as good as the next.”
When I finally decided to extend my tour, one option I wanted to explore was to fly with the Firebirds. In the last phase of flight school, most trained to fly slicks; I was trained to be a gunship pilot. After my training, I at least knew the basics of how to make a gun run and to line up and hit a target. All I needed to do was to fly around in circles and fire off rockets. Also, I would not have to sit in a hot LZ. I thought it would be fun to have a little divergence from my usual routine.
When I got the chance, I decided to go on a gunship mission with Rusty Glenn, Firebird 99. Rusty and I were friends and I had known him since flight school. After sitting at the bar and trashing each other’s flying skills and ability, we made arrangements to fly together. I would fly with Rusty as his Peter Pilot on my next day off from flying my normal missions as Rattler 27.
On January 11th, I was assigned to fly my first gunship mission in combat. It was the day after the loss of Firebird 91. The missing Firebird crew weighed on everyone but the war did not allow us to stand down and mourn. The combat missions continued to go on seamlessly.
I was not expecting a lot on my first mission, but I was a little excited about getting a chance at firing some rockets. I ended up logging eight hours that day. With standby time, we were flying well into the night. When we were not flying, we were just hanging around Hawk Hill waiting for a mission. The first six hours was uneventful. Hawk Hill was the field location home for the Firebirds. This was a centralized location in the middle of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade AO (Area of Operations). It allowed the Firebirds to be on station almost immediately when called upon.
At Hawk Hill that night was Dan Bouteiller, with Steve Calvary as his Peter Pilot. They were assigned as the re-supply aircraft in support of the 2nd Bn. 1st Inf. There was not much going on. I, along with others for something to do, was harassing Steve Calvary about getting himself shot out in the AO. It was the right of passage to get harassed as a new Peter Pilot. I remember as a new Peter Pilot calling Chu Lai for landing instructions mistakenly on our company frequency. It did not take long for someone to come over the radio giving me landing instructions. “Roger, Rattler 2X, you are cleared to land runway 18. Be aware that there are a group of gophers on the runway masturbating.” Steve took the harassment in stride. He was good natured and not much seemed to bother him. Steve was a new arrival and bunked across from me in the 2nd Platoon hooch. Everyone got along with him well.
The standby status changed when Bouteiller received a call from the field. The small unit was engaged with the enemy forces and requested emergency ammunition and supplies. Bouteiller and Calvary strapped in while supplies were loaded onto their helicopter. The light hearted BS and kidding was over and now we had a combat mission to fly.
I climbed aboard with Rusty and the crew in the fully armed and loaded UH-1C helicopter. I engaged the engine and got the aircraft to flight RPM and hovered for a normal take off. Take off in a fully loaded UH-1C gunship was different than taking off in a UH-1H slick that I normally flew or the UH-1B gunship that I trained on while at flight school. I was at a hover pulling nearly 100 percent engine power. I was not certain that I was going to be able to take off without a runway. Slowly easing the cyclic, we got off the ground. Rusty led his light fire team of two Firebirds towards the field location.
Ahead of Bouteiller’s final approach to the field location, Rusty gave me instructions to line up on a target to give covering fire. From the grease pencil X mark on the windshield and my head all the way back to a fixed position, I lined up my target and fired a pair of rockets. The gun sight reticle I was trained on in flight school was inoperative. In fact, I don’t remember seeing one installed on our gunship. As the rockets impacted, I broke left for a 180 degree climbing turn as Rusty’s wingman made his gun run. I was doing pretty well. I had mustered up everything I remembered from flight school. Remember to: line up to the target; keep the aircraft in trim; watch the descent and altitude; cover the wingman when he makes his break from his run.
On my second run, I heard a call from Bouteiller that he was taking fire and that his Peter Pilot had been hit. He indicated that he was heading to LZ Baldy and needed cover. I was so busy fixated on hitting my next target that I lost sight of Bouteiller in the darkness. I got on the mike and asked Bouteiller to turn on his position lights. Before I finished the call, I realized that it was stupid. Turning on lights would give a perfect target for the enemy gunners. Rusty immediately took the controls and assured Bouteiller that he was covered. This was not Rusty’s first Firebird mission.
I quickly realized that I was not in flight school. Also, that flying gunships was not just about hitting the target. The primary mission was to protect the slicks at all times. I was also extremely worried about hitting friendlies on the ground. I did not like the responsibility of mistakenly killing our troops by firing an errant rocket or misjudging the target. I felt like a brand new naïve Peter Pilot. I was glad that Rusty was in command to save my ass!
We escorted Bouteiller to LZ Baldy’s medical facility. We landed next to him on the tight landing pad. As I inspected Bouteiller’s helicopter, the right seat was tilted to the floor and covered with blood. The crew chief was able to control the bleeding on the way to the medical facility.
We walked into the medical facility where they were starting to treat Calvary’s wound. He took one small arms round to his groin area. On the landing approach, one round came through the chin bubble and hit Calvary between his legs. This was the shot that all pilots dreaded. Many of the pilots carried a western pistol holster that they shifted to a strategic position when flying. The round missed his “vital parts” by less than an inch.
He was there on the operating table exposed to the world as we were making stupid remarks such as, “Wow, that was close.” He was fully conscious but must have been in shock. He did not say anything. A nurse glared at us in disgust and she quickly threw us out of the facility. Steve was evacuated first to Japan then on to the US. (I did talk to Steve on the phone many years later. I was glad to hear that he recovered fully).
On February 7th, I filled out and signed my paperwork for a six month extension with the Rattlers. I nixed my option of continuing to fly with the Firebirds. I interviewed for a position in maintenance with Major James. As part of my extension, I asked to become a test pilot. I had completed the basic helicopter maintenance course and was a week short of completing the Mohawk crew chief course before I received orders for flight school. Also in my thinking, of all the choices I had, flying as Snake Doctor would be a safe choice if I wanted to survive another ten months in the AO.
Shortly after transferring to maintenance, I was again flying as a Peter Pilot; this time, aboard Snake Doctor 06 with Captain Jim Duke as the aircraft commander and as my new platoon leader. It was May 2, 1970 and we were flying as “high ship” in support of a combat assault, ironically close to where Steve Calvary was hit. One of Snake Doctor’s missions was to fly as high ship in support of combat assaults. If an aircraft went down due to enemy fire or to mechanical failure, Snake Doctor became the rescue or recovery aircraft.
During the combat assault, a Firebird aircraft commanded by Captain Andy Nakano was shot down by small arms fire and rolled on its side upon landing. Captain Duke immediately responded and made an approach to the crash site. We took fire during our approach and took a hit to our radio console through the open cargo door. Our crew chief, Wayne Bell returned fire to cover our approach. As the crew from the downed Firebird aircraft was climbing aboard, I heard a loud gunshot and a round hit my camera that was slung across my seat. Shrapnel from the camera hit my arm and I thought that I had been wounded. I felt around my arm and realized that there was no blood and that I was okay other than a little sting. I remember Andy leaning over and apologizing, asking me if I was okay. Many years later, I found out that the Firebird door gunner, Tony Cumbess, accidentally discharged his M-16 while entering the aircraft. I was going to survive enemy fire only to get killed by friendly fire. “No good deed goes unpunished.” We made our way to LZ West to get Tony Cumbess medical treatment for injuries that he sustained in the crash.
It didn’t take long to realize that there is no safe job flying with an Assault Helicopter Company. Even when not flying, there were always the rocket attacks targeting Chu Lai. I was fortunate to ETS on December 24th relatively unscathed. By extending, I eventually qualified for early release from service and bid farewell to the army.
Did anyone else ever do this? My aircraft (Ron Seabolt’s) was on a single ship mission one morning working for the 1st Infantry Division when we were tasked to pick up five KIAs and take them to graves registration at Long Bien. My AC that day was WO-1 Conrad Howard. The KIAs were not in body bags and the stench was horrible. We stacked them on the cargo floor like cord wood. I could see broken limbs, intestines hanging out, gaping holes in sculls and assorted other traumatic injuries.
When you called ahead to graves registration with five inbound it tended to draw a crowd of macabre curious REMFs and this was no exception. What made this different though was that upon landing, Mr. Howard brought the aircraft down to flight idle and tightened the cyclic friction apparatus and the four of us crew members walked away from the aircraft. We needed some fresh air. I never before or after saw a Huey running at flight idle without anyone sitting at the controls.
The crowd swooped in to gawk and remove the bodies. After they were gone, we climbed back in and flew back to Bien Hoa where I hosed out the aircraft as well as possible and we continued the mission.
Another oddity of the 1st Infantry Division was that their headquarters was located at Di An. Anybody that can read knows that is Diane right? Wrong! In Vietnamese it was pronounced as Zion.
ASSAULT HELICOPTERS IN VIET NAM 1965-1967
Received from Bill Green (OF 66)
In many ways, Viet Nam was a helicopter war. Troop movement, resupply in the field, medical evacuation, and search and rescue reshaped and redefined the battlefield. More than 4500 helicopters were lost during the war. It has been said that casualties among helicopter crews in Viet Nam were greater per capita than with any other Military Occupational Specialty. It is known that final approach to an LZ was considered, by soldiers being inserted, to be the most hazardous part of the mission.
The 145th Combat Aviation Battalion was activated in Saigon in September 1963 with two Companies of CH-21C lift helicopters (twin rotor “flying bananas”). The Battalion motto was “First in Viet Nam”. Early in 1964 the Battalion traded it’s CH-21s for new UH-1B (Huey) helicopters, and a Company of armed Hueys was added to the Battalion TO&E.
Early in 1966 the Battalion Headquarters moved to Bien Hoa, about 15 road miles north of Saigon. The Battalion’s mission was general support to “All Free World Military Forces in the III Corps tactical zone. Major US Commands supported were the 1st and 25th Infantry Divisions, the 173rd Airborne Brigade and all Army Special Forces in III Corps. All Republic of Viet Nam (RVN) units in III Corps were part of the mission, along with separate units from other friendly countries such as Australia and Korea. Toward the end of 1966, the 9th Infantry Division deployed into III Corps and became part of the 145th mission.
Three Companies in the Battalion, the 68th, 118th and 71st Assault Helicopter Companies, consisted of two lift Platoons of UH-1D&H model Hueys and one Platoon of armed UH-1B,C&M model Hueys. A fourth Company, the 334th Armed Helicopter Company consisted of four Platoons of armed UH-1B, C&M model Hueys. Most common missions for Assault Helicopter Companies were Combat Assaults and single ship missions in support of designated units in the field. Helicopter support was requested by supported units and assigned to Company Operations through the Battalion Tactical Operations Center (TOC) which was manned 24/7/365. In addition to regular assignments of mission, usually made the day prior, there were occasional “rapid reaction” missions - calls for emergency support of a unit or units in contact. The 334th supported all units in III Corps in addition to designated independent “attack” missions against known enemy targets.
Photos in the adjoining collage, titled as above, are from the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion’s Assault Helicopter Companies during the period 1965-1967. I believe all images are of 71st and 118th helicopters. I served in the 145th from July 1966 to April 1967 and I flew with the 71st Assault Helicopter Company (the Rattlers) through January. When I had gained enough experience flying with other Aircraft Commanders (AC), I became an AC in August 1966 and my call sign was “Rattler 18”. That remains today one of the titles I am most proud of in my life, right up there with “Dad”.
NEW YORK CITY???
By Kay Seabolt
This past October I checked one more thing off my Bucket List. Ron and I spent six days in New York City. I do stress this was on MY Bucket List. Ron will be the first to tell you he never has a desire to go, but he will also tell you he had a great time.
We stayed in a hotel on 7th Avenue which is in the center of everything. We could see Times Square from the hotel. We did the normal site seeing stuff, saw two Broadway plays, the 911 Museum and two reflecting pools, ate great food, went on a hansom cab ride in Central Park, and walked enough that we both should have lost weight. Unfortunately we counteracted all the walking by eating chocolate from the M&M, Hershey and Lindt stores. Not to mention that wonderful New York cheesecake.
Here are some fun facts we learned about the city:
- Riding taxis can be hazardous to your health. The ride from the airport was so jerky I was literally sick at my stomach when we arrived at the hotel.
- There are no Walmart’s.
- There are at least one Starbuck’s on every block.
- The Naked Cowboy is not naked, but he does look good in his speedo.
- The people are not rude, but they sure are in a hurry.
- New Yorkers aren’t fat…just the tourists.
- Our National Debt could be paid off with NYC jay walking fines.
- There are very few pickup trucks.
- Grand Central Station would hold a bunch of hay.
- You can park your car for 30 minutes for $8.49 or all day for $52.00.
- Harlem is not a slum. It is actually a very desirable place to live.
- Central Park is BIG, over eight hundred acres.
- You can stand on any street corner and hear multiple languages.
- Macy’s is 9 stories tall.
- Kay likes Tiffany & Co.
Ron’s favorite thing was looking at the beautiful women. He said he had never seen so many drop dead gorgeous women in one place. A fact he mentioned a little too often and told everyone he talked to back home. I think he got whiplash!
One of the things I learned was when you are warned before getting on the IMAX Sky Ride at the Empire State Building that if you have neck or back problems you should not get on the ride is to heed that advice. We were strapped in our seats and jerked every which so that I spent most of the ride with my eyes closed and trying to guard my neck and back. Lesson learned!
We had a great time. The only problem was I started getting sick right before our return home. I ended up being sick for two solid weeks with laryngitis and congestion. Was it worth it? You bet…I’d do it again in a New York minute!
WHO’S ON FIRST?
By Ron Seabolt
By my fourth week of basic training I caught guard duty. This was at Ft. Polk, LA. I dressed up in my best non fitting fatigues and my boots that I had never worn thinking I might be able to snag that super uno job or whatever they called it. That was the guy who did not walk a post unless someone got sick or killed I guess.
When the inspection took place I would have graded myself as about a 10…..out of the 12 or so who were there. Some of those guys even had fitted fatigues. I’m wondering, “Who in the hell are these guys?”
I was in the 1st platoon, which was all Texas guys. One of my fellow guard duty soldiers was David Brummett. I had known Brummett all my life. I knew his brother, mom, dad, uncle, aunt, and cousins. We had met, so to speak.
David was either number 11 or 12 on my grading list. When the guard posts were assigned Brummett and I were both on duty to start the shift. He had post number 1 and I had post number 2. His post had a phone on it and mine didn’t.
Our posts’ were around the PX and a bunch of other offices which had scores of soldiers in and out while we marched around with our empty M-14 rifles. Eventually we were relieved and went back to sack out for a couple of hours.
I believe it was around 1000 hours when we went back to our posts. By this time we were alone out there. Wanting to do my duty correctly, I started checking to see if all the doors were locked on my post. Well one was not…..the finance office.
All manner of thoughts went thought my mind when that knob turned and opened. Am I interrupting a major heist? Is this a test? Am I about to pee in my fatigues?
I closed the door and backed away from the door and hot footed it to my nearest point to post number 1 and called out, “Post number 2 to post number 1!” Nothing. “Post number 2 to post number 1!” Nothing. “Hey Brummett!” “What!” “Why didn’t you answer me?” “I didn’t know you were talking to me!” “Call the Sergeant of the Guard down to Post number 2, the finance office is open!” “Ok.”
I go back to the general area of this open office and in about 90 seconds I hear a jeep coming wide open. It ain’t no Sergeant of the Guard either. It’s a lieutenant. I brace and snap off my finest salute which he responds to like I have insulted him.
“What in the hell is going on here private!” he barks. I inform him of what I have found. “Why didn’t you find this four hours ago private!” another bark. “Sir, four hours ago everything out here was open!” I respond. That seemed to mollify him somewhat. We go to the door and he has me stand at the door while he takes a quick look inside to see if anyone is in there. When he is satisfied we are alone he tells me to follow him.
We go up a grassy hill in front of the office and he tells me, “Sit right there where you can see that office door plus most of the rest of your post. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Makes me feel special to get to sit down on guard duty.
About 15 minutes later I hear the jeep approach again and I have enough country sense to get up. Now two men get out of the jeep. One is my lieutenant and he has one pissed off lieutenant colonel with him. They check things out, lock up and leave.
I’ve done my job. The way I figure it I have saved all the money at Ft. Polk tonight…maybe. David Brummett now knows what post he is guarding and somebody is going to get about $20 worth of their butt chewed off tomorrow morning.
And one more little tidbit. Persons on guard duty were given the morning off and rejoined the company at noon. That was the morning my company had CBR training. To the uninitiated CBR stands for chemical, biological and radiological training. Going through the gas chamber in other words. I missed it. Almost two years later at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Georgia it was deemed that the entire base take CBR training. By then I was an E-5, not and E-1. When I got a big whiff of the gas, my 6 foot 6 inch butt was going out that canvas flap and I didn’t give a damn who I had to take with me. Somebody just wisely stepped aside when they saw me coming and never said a word about it.
GRINS or TRUTHS?
- A recent study showed that women who put on a few extra pounds live longer than the men who point it out!
- A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country!
- If a man says he will fix it, there is no reason to remind him of it every six months!
Ron and Kay Seabolt
Scott Runyon and Larry Smith
Tony Marinaro, Don Rodgers and Mike Hansen
Walt Mitchell and John Cervinski
Connie and Bill Holgerson
Carol and Wes Johanson
John Bley and Bill Patrick
Little Mac, Dick Ehrich, Rich Logman,
Mike Beaumont, Dick Sienkiewicz and Carl Stanat
John Wiklanski, Jim Waddell and Jerry Fairfield
Ed Mills, Jr. and Ed Mills, Sr.
Ervin and Lynda Wade
Heather Shaner and David Hunter
Ron and Vicky Taylor
Jim Collins, Bruce Kelly, Jerry Richardson,
Adair Kelly and Deb Collins
Bill and LaRue Keller
Happy Birthday Bruce Kelly