CO. A/501 AVIATION BN., 71st ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY NEWSLETTER
VOL. XXIII NUMBER 2 ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER NOVEMBER 2017
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
VERY IMPORTANT – THE ASSOCIATION HAS A NEW ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER.
The address is: 1492 VZ County Road 2701, Mabank, TX 75147. Phone # 903-848-9033.
Our 2018 Reunion is finally set. We are once again going to Nashville. Hopefully this time it will be without the flood. The hotel we were trying to use in Memphis was going to be VERY expensive without any perks like free breakfast and free beer and drinks for our people. At one time we had a deal, which we were not too proud of to start with, and they reneged on it and then really socked it to us. Now I understand that they have had a little problem with Legionnair's disease. Good riddance.
As most of you know, my wife, Kay Seabolt, died last year from brain cancer on August 27 th. I wish to sincerely thank all of you for the many expressions of kindness shown to my family and I. It is a lonely world without your life mate. We were married almost thirty years and were friends about five years longer than that. I talk to her daily. My world has been shaken to its foundations.
The 2018 Reunion will be held at the Millennium Maxwell House Hotel located at 2025 Rosa L. Parks Blvd.Nashville, TN 37228. The dates are from Wednesday, May 30th to Sunday, June 3rd. The room rate is $130 plus tax,which comes out to a little over $150 per night for single or double occupancy. This includes breakfast each morning. The rate is good for two days before and two days after the reunion dates. There is no airport shuttle to this hotel and a taxi rate will be in the $20-$25 range. Hotel check-in time is 4 pm.
For this reunion we had to make some hard decisions as far as how many rooms we could set aside in our room block based on our 2016 Reunion attendance. We are assured of running out of rooms we believe. If this is done before the first of the year, we can expand the room block probably. If we cannot expand the room block, the rooms will cost $354 per night plus tax putting it over $400 a night. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU MAKE YOUR RESERVATION BEFORE THE END OF THIS YEAR! There is a reason that last sentence is in bold and capital letters. It is so you cannot say you did not know this!
Call the hotel direct at 615-259-4343 for reservations. Tell them you are with the Rattler-Firebird Reunion. For banquet and tour information and registration, go to www.militaryreunionplanners.com and in the pass code enter rattler-firebird2018 or follow this link: https://militaryreunionplanners.com/SR/index.php?folder=Rattler-2018
The Association has been notified of the following deaths since our last newsletter:
- David A. Bascle (EM 69-70) died on 29 July 2016 from lung cancer.
- John Blakley (WO 68-69) died on 12 April 2017 from multiple causes.
- Stanley Cylc (EM 66-67) died on 18 December 2016 from stomach cancer.
- Paul Grubbs (WO 70-71) died on 22 December 2016 from heart problems.
- Richard “Dick” Holifield (OF 68-69) died on 10 February 2017 of Parkinson’s.
- Bruce LaBombard (EM 68-69) died on 3 December 2016 from diabetes.
- John Lynch (EM 66-67) died on 2 August 2016 from cancer.
- Mike Rodgers (EM 67-68) died on 30 May 2017 from surgically caused gangrene.
- Richard Stanley (EM 70-71) died on 19 May 2017 from cancer.
- Gordon Stone (OF 64-65) died on 28 August 2016 from unknown causes.
- Bob Treat (OF 66-67) died on 1 August 2016 from Alzheimer’s
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION I
Does anyone in the 1968/69 Rattlers know this Warrant Officer? He was my guardian Angel! 2/69 & I was FNG & the WO/AC let me fly for about 10 min low level at day’s end. Our assignment was for a Marine operation south of Chu Lai
We were crossing the Bantangan peninsula flying back to the 71 AHC’s AO. While I was in control (flying low level like flight school) the turbine took a couple rounds of ground fire, killing the engine.
This WO/AC, an 11-month short-timer, calmly said “I got it”, took controls, with no power, starting a low level autorotation. He flipped radio frequency to an emergency channel & made a very calm “May Day” call; then successfully crash landed us. He did ALL of this within 10-15 sec of us being hit.
Had he not piloted like a genius, made that call to a sister AC that knew our location, we would have crashed & been overrun at the crash site. We hit hard enough that the main rotor partially severed our tail boom, skids curled up over doors & (recoil belts didn’t work) as he & I were hanging out over the nose.
It took me 45 years to realize what a genius, angel this guy was!
Contact Jim Adams, 417 684 7359 or [email protected]
REQUEST FOR INFORMATION II
I am seeking help from association members from the '66-'67 era to assist in my claim with the VA for compensation for bladder cancer caused by Agent Orange. At the present time bladder cancer is not on the presumptive list of diseases from Agent Orange but is under consideration. I have filed a claim and that is where you come into play.
- Has anyone from the unit experienced any type of cancer arising from your tour in Vietnam?
- Do you recall flying missions in support of spraying Agent Orange herbicide from a helicopter?
- Do any of you have photos of unit helicopters showing the spray apparatus?
- Do you recall which area of operation we supported with either a rigged helicopter or gun support of a mission?
I would appreciate help with letters to the VA in support of my claim or any other information you might recall. I recall on at least two occasions being in the vicinity of a rigged UH-1D and flying support as a Firebird light gun team. We were present for the loading of the tank, seeing the drums of Agent Orange, and then flying behind the drop ship as protection.
I am currently undergoing treatment for bladder cancer at the VA in Amarillo, TX.
You can contact me via cell phone at 806-674-5149 or email at [email protected]. You can also send any information you may have to my address at 7112 Bennett St, Amarillo, TX 79119.
Thanks for your time and assistance.
Mel Jones –Firebird 92 OF 66-67
UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE RATED 100% DISABLED
Unfortunately, many veterans are too often confused about Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 100 percent disability ratings and whether or not they are allowed to secure gainful employment if rated at 100 percent. While complex, and sometimes confusing to the most experienced VSO, let’s take a look at the four types of 100 percent disability ratings in plain, understandable English.
- Combined. When a veteran's service-connected disabilities are combined to reach 100 percent, he/she is allowed to work full time or part time. For example, if a veteran is rated 70% for PTSD, and 30% for IBS, the two disabilities equal 100% (sometimes – see rating table), and the veteran is allowed to hold a full time or part time job.
- TDIU or IU. Total Disability/Individual Unemployability. This is a specific type of claim made by a veteran, requesting that he/she be paid at the 100 percent rate even though his/her disabilities do not combine to reach 100%. The request is often made because the veteran is unable to maintain "gainful employment" because his/her service connected disabilities prevent him/her from doing so. The basic eligibility to file for Individual Unemployability (IU) is that the veteran has one disability rated at 60 percent or one at 40 percent and enough other disabilities that result in a combined rating of 70 percent or more. The one disability at 40 percent criteria can be a combined rating of related disabilities. Meeting the basic criteria is not a guarantee that the veteran will be awarded 100 percent under IU criteria. The medical evidence must show that the veteran is unable to work in both a physical and sedentary job setting. A veteran not meeting the percentage criteria may still be awarded IU if the disabilities present a unique barrier to gainful employment. If a veteran is granted 100 percent under IU he is prohibited from working full-time, because in filing the claim for IU the veteran is stating he/she is unable to work because of his/her service connected disabilities. However, receiving IU does not necessarily prevent a veteran from all employment circumstances. The veteran can work in a part-time "marginal" employment position and earn up to a certain amount annually, but not allowed to surpass a certain amount.
- Temporary 100 percent rating. If a veteran is hospitalized 21 days or longer or had surgery for a service-connected disability that requires at least a 30-day convalescence period, the VA will pay at the 100 percent rate for the duration of the hospital stay or the convalescence period. For example, if a veteran has a total hip replacement for a service-connected hip disability, the VA will pay 100 percent compensation for up to 13 months, the standard recovery period for a replacement of a major joint. The duration of 100 percent temporary disability for any other type of surgery will depend on what the doctor reports as the recovery period.
- Permanent and total. A 100 percent "permanent and total" rating is when the VA acknowledges that the service connected conditions have no likelihood of improvement and the veteran will remain at 100 percent permanently with no future examinations. The P&T rating provides additional benefits, such as Chapter 35 education benefits for dependents, among others. Veterans sometimes make the mistake of requesting a P&T rating simply because they want education benefits for their dependents. The one caveat that veterans need to keep in mind is that when P&T is requested, all of their service-connected disabilities will be re-evaluated. If improvement is noted during the subsequent examinations, a reduction from 100 percent can possibly be proposed. Because many veterans are service-connected for conditions that VA says have a "likelihood of improvement," most ratings are not considered permanent and are subject to future review. The only time veterans can't work a full-time position, that is considered a gainfully-employed job is if they were awarded 100 percent disability through a claim for IU. Additionally, a 100 percent rating under either IU or combined ratings may or may not be rated as permanent and total. A temporary 100 percent rating is just that: temporary due to being hospitalized or recovering from surgery on a service-connected condition.
Keep in mind, it is always best for a veteran to work with an accredited Veteran Service Officer (VSO) who can explain the complex workings of the VA benefit system.
Col Keith Nightingale to VietnamWarHistoryOrg
THE SOUND THAT BINDS
Unique to all that served in Vietnam is the UH1H helicopter. It was both devil and angel and it served as both extremely well. Whether a LRRP, US or RVN soldier or civilian, whether, NVA, VC, Allied or civilian, it provided a sound and sense that lives with us all today. It is the one sound that immediately clears the clouds of time and freshens the forgotten images within our mind. It will be the sound track of our last moments on earth. It was a simple machine-a single engine, a single blade and four man crew-yet like the Model T, it transformed us all and performed tasks the engineers and designers never imagined. For soldiers, it was the worst and best of friends but it was the one binding material in a tapestry of a war of many pieces.
The smell was always hot, filled with diesel fumes, sharp drafts accentuated by gritty sand, laterite and anxious vibrations. It always held the spell of the unknown and the anxiety of learning what was next and what might be. It was an unavoidable magnet for the heavily laden soldier who donkey-trotted to its squat shaking shape through the haze and blast of dirt, stepped on the OD skid, turned and dropped his ruck on the cool aluminum deck. Reaching inside with his rifle or machine gun, a soldier would grasp a floor ring with a finger as an extra precaution of physics for those moments when the now airborne bird would break into a sharp turn revealing all ground or all sky to the helpless riders all very mindful of the impeding weight on their backs. The relentless weight of the ruck combined with the stress of varying motion caused fingers and floor rings to bind almost as one. Constant was the vibration, smell of hydraulic fluid, flashes of visionary images and the occasional burst of a ground-fed odor-rotting fish, dank swampy heat, cordite or simply the continuous sinuous currents of Vietnam’s weather-cold and driven mist in the Northern monsoon or the wall of heated humidity in the southern dry season. Blotting it out and shading the effect was the constant sound of the single rotating blade as it ate a piece of the air, struggling to overcome the momentary physics of the weather.
To divert anxiety, a soldier/piece of freight, might reflect on his home away from home. The door gunners were usually calm which was emotionally helpful. Each gun had a C ration fruit can at the ammo box clip entrance to the feed mechanism of the machine gun. The gun had a large circular aiming sight unlike the ground pounder version. That had the advantage of being able to fix on targets from the air considerably further than normal ground acquisition. Pears, Apricots, Apple Sauce or Fruit Cocktail, it all worked. Fruit cans had just the right width to smoothly feed the belt into the gun which was always a good thing. Some gunners carried a large oil can much like old locomotive engineers to squeeze on the barrel to keep it cool. Usually this was accompanied by a large OD towel or a khaki wound pack bandage to allow a rubdown without a burned hand. Under the gunners seat was usually a small dairy-box filled with extra ammo boxes, smoke grenades, water, flare pistol, C rats and a couple of well-worn paperbacks. The gun itself might be attached to the roof of the helicopter with a bungi cord and harness. This allowed the adventurous gunners to unattach the gun from the pintle and fire it manually while standing on the skid with only the thinnest of connectivity to the bird. These were people you wanted near you-particularly on extractions.
The pilots were more mysterious. You only saw parts of them as they labored behind the armored seats. An arm, a helmeted head and the occasional fingered hand as it moved across the dials and switches on the ceiling above. The armored side panels covered their outside legs-an advantage the passenger did not enjoy. Sometimes, a face, shielded behind helmeted sunshades, would turn around to impart a question with a glance or display a sense of anxiety with large white-circled eyes-this was not a welcoming look as the sounds of external issues fought to override the sounds of mechanics in flight. Yet, as a whole, the pilots got you there, took you back and kept you maintained. You never remembered names, if at all you knew them, but you always remembered the ride and the sound.
Behind each pilot seat usually ran a stretch of wire or silk attaching belt. It would have arrayed a variety of handy items for immediate use. Smoke grenades were the bulk of the attachment inventory-most colors and a couple of white phosphorous if a dramatic marking was needed. Sometimes, trip flares or hand grenades would be included depending on the location and mission. Hand grenades were a rare exception as even pilots knew they exploded-not always where intended. It was just a short arm motion for a door gunner to pluck an inventory item off the string, pull the pin and pitch it which was the point of the arrangement. You didn’t want to be in a helicopter when such an act occurred as that usually meant there was an issue. Soldiers don’t like issues that involve them. It usually means a long day or a very short one-neither of which is a good thing.
The bird lifts off in a slow, struggling and shaking manner. Dust clouds obscure any view a soldier may have. Quickly, with a few subtle swings, the bird is above the dust and a cool encompassing wind blows through. Sweat is quickly dried, eyes clear and a thousand feet of altitude show the world below. Colors are muted but objects clear. The rows of wooden hootches, the airfield, local villages, an old B52 strike, the mottled trail left by a Ranchhand spray mission and the open reflective water of a river or lake are crisp in sight. The initial anxiety of the flight or mission recedes as the constantly moving and soothing motion picture and soundtrack unfolds. In time, one is aware of the mass of UH1H’s coalescing in a line in front of and behind you. Other strings of birds may be left or right of you-all surging toward some small speck in the front lost to your view. Each is a mirror image of the other-two to three laden soldiers sitting on the edge looking at you and your accompanying passengers all going to the same place with the same sense of anxiety and uncertainty but borne on a similar steed and sound. In time, one senses the birds coalescing as they approach the objective. Perhaps a furtive glance or sweeping arc of flight reveals the landing zone. Smoke erupts in columns-initially visible as blue grey against the sky. The location is clearly discernible as a trembling spot surrounded by a vast green carpet of flat jungle or a sharp point of a jutting ridge, as the bird gets closer, a soldier can now see the small FAC aircraft working well-below, the sudden sweeping curve of the bombing runs and the small puffs as artillery impacts. A sense of immense loneliness can begin to obscure one’s mind as the world’s greatest theatre raises its curtain. Even closer now, with anxious eyes and short breath, a soldier can make out his destination. The smoke is now the dirty grey black of munitions with only the slightest hint of orange upon ignition. No Hollywood effect is at work. Here, the physics of explosions are clearly evident as pressure and mass over light.
The pilot turns around to give a thumbs up or simply ignores his load as he struggles to maintain position with multiple birds dropping power through smoke swirls, uplifting newly created debris, sparks and flaming ash. The soldiers instinctively grasp their weapons tighter, look furtively between the upcoming ground and the pilot and mentally strain to find some anchor point for the next few seconds of life. If this is the first lift in, the door gunners will be firing rapidly in sweeping motions of the gun but this will be largely unknown and unfelt to the soldiers. They will now be focused on the quickly approaching ground and the point where they might safely exit. Getting out is now very important. Suddenly, the gunners may rapidly point to the ground and shout “GO” or there may just be the jolt of the skids hitting the ground and the soldiers instinctively lurch out of the bird, slam into the ground and focus on the very small part of the world they now can see. The empty birds, under full power, squeeze massive amounts of air and debris down on the exited soldiers blinding them to the smallest view. Very quickly, there is a sudden shroud of silence as the birds retreat into the distance and the soldiers begin their recovery into a cohesive organization losing that sound.
On various occasions and weather dependent, the birds return. Some to provide necessary logistics, some command visits and some medevacs. On the rarest and best of occasions, they arrive to take you home. Always they have the same sweet sound which resonates with every soldier who ever heard it. It is the sound of life, hope for life and what may be. It is a sound that never will be forgotten. It is your and our sound. Logistics is always a trial. Pilots don’t like it, field soldiers need it and weather is indiscriminate. Log flights also mean mail and a connection to home and where real people live and live real lives. Here is an aberrant aspect of life On various occasions and weather dependent, the birds return. Some to provide necessary logistics, some command visits and some medevacs. On the rarest and best of occasions, they arrive to take you home. Always they have the same sweet sound which resonates with every soldier who ever heard it. It is the sound of life, hope for life and what may be. It is a sound that never will be forgotten. It is your and our sound.
Logistics is always a trial. Pilots don’t like it, field soldiers need it and weather is indiscriminate. Log flights also mean mail and a connection to home and where real people live and live real lives. Here is an aberrant aspect of life that only that sound can relieve. Often there is no landing zone or the area is so hot that a pilot’s sense of purpose may become blurred. Ground commander’s beg and plead on the radio for support that is met with equivocations or insoluble issues. Rations are stretched from four to six days, cigarettes become serious barter items and soldiers begin to turn inward. In some cases, perhaps only minutes after landing, fire fights break out. The machine guns begin their carnivorous song. Rifle ammunition and grenades are expended with gargantuan appetites. The air is filled with an all-encompassing sound that shuts each soldier into his own small world-shooting, loading, shooting, loading, shooting, loading until he has to quickly reach into the depth of his ruck, past the extra rations, past the extra rain poncho, past the spare paperback, to the eight M16 magazines forming the bottom of the load-never thought he would need them. A resupply is desperately needed. In some time, a sound is heard over the din of battle..A steady whomp whomp whomp that says; The World is here. Help is on the way. Hang in there. The soldier turns back to the business at hand with a renewed confidence. Wind parts the canopy and things begin to crash through the tree tops. Some cases have smoke grenades attached-these are the really important stuff-medical supplies, codes and maybe mail. The sound drifts off in the distance and things are better for the moment. The sound brings both a psychological and a material relief.
Wounds are hard to manage. The body is all soft flesh, integrated parts and an emotional burden for those that have to watch its deterioration. If the body is an engine, blood is the gasoline.-when it runs out, so does life. It's important the parts get quickly fixed and the blood is restored to a useful level. If not, the soldier becomes another piece of battlefield detritus. A field medic has the ability to stop external blood flow-less internal. He can replace blood with fluid but its not blood. He can treat for shock but he can’t always stop it. He is at the mercy of his ability and the nature of the wound. Bright red is surface bleeding he can manage but dark red, almost tar-colored, is deep, visceral and beyond his ability to manage. Dark is the essence of the casualties interior. He needs the help that only that sound can bring. If an LZ exists, its wonderful and easy. If not, difficult options remain. The bird weaves back and forth above the canopy as the pilot struggles to find the location of the casualty. He begins a steady hover as he lowers the litter on a cable. The gunner or helo medic looks down at the small figures below and tries to wiggle the litter and cable through the tall canopy to the small upreaching figures below. In time, the litter is filled and the cable retreats -the helo crew still carefully managing the cable as it wends skyward. The cable hits its anchor, the litter is pulled in and the pilot pulls pitch and quickly disappears-but the retreating sound is heard by all and the silent universal thought-There but for the Grace of God go I-and it will be to that sound.
Cutting a landing zone is a standard soldier task. Often, to hear the helicopter’s song, the impossible becomes a requirement and miracles abound. Sweat-filled eyes, blood blistered hands, energy-expended and with a breath of desperation and desire, soldiers attack a small space to carve out sufficient open air for the helicopter to land. Land to bring in what’s needed, take out what’s not and to remind them that someone out there cares. Perhaps some explosives are used-usually for the bigger trees but most often its soldiers and machetes or the side of an e-tool. Done under the pressure of an encroaching enemy, it’s a combination of high adrenalin rush and simple dumb luck small bullet, big space. In time, an opening is made and the sky revealed. A sound encroaches before a vision. Eyes turn toward the newly created void and the bird appears. The blade tips seem so much larger than the newly columned sky. Volumes of dirt, grass, leaves and twigs sweep upward and are then driven fiercely downward through the blades as the pilot struggles to do a completely vertical descent through the narrow column he has been provided. Below, the soldiers both cower and revel in the free-flowing air. The trash is blinding but the moving air feels so great. Somehow, the pilot lands in a space that seems smaller than his blade radius. In reverse, the sound builds and then recedes into the distance-always that sound. Bringing and taking away.
Extraction is an emotional highlight of any soldier’s journey. Regardless of the austerity and issues of the home base, for that moment, it is a highly desired location and the focus of thought. It will be provided by that familiar vehicle of sound. The Pickup Zone in the bush is relatively open or if on an established firebase or hilltop position, a marked fixed location. The soldiers awaiting extraction, close to the location undertake their assigned dutiessecurity, formation alignment or LZ marking. Each is focused on the task at hand and tends to blot out other issues. As each soldier senses his moment of removal is about to arrive, his auditory sense becomes keen and his visceral instinct searches for that single sweet song that only one instrument can play. When registered, his eyes look up and he sees what his mind has imaged. He focuses on the sound and the sight and both become larger as they fill his body. He quickly steps unto the skid and up into the aluminum cocoon. Turning outward now, he grasps his weapon with one hand and with the other holds the cargo ring on the floor-as he did when he first arrived at this location. Reversing the flow of travel, he approaches what he temporarily calls home. Landing again in a swirl of dust, diesel and grinding sand, he offloads and trudges toward his assembly point.
The sounds retreat in his ears but he knows he will hear them again. He always will!
DEAD BUG! - A Tribute to the Army's first generation of combat helicopter pilots.
(Yes, by Heaven, we flew in Vietnam and we were winning when I left.)
By J.C. Pennington
As we get older and we experience the loss of old friends, we begin to realize that maybe we ten-foot tall, bulletproof Army aviators won’t live forever. We aren’t so bullet-proof anymore. We ponder...if I were gone tomorrow, “Did I say what I wanted to my Brothers?” The answer is “No!” Hence, the following random thoughts:
When people ask me if I miss flying, I always say something like, “Yes, I miss the flying because when you are flying, you are totally focused on the task at hand. It’s like nothing else you will ever do (almost). ” But then I always say, “However, I miss the unit and the guys even more than I miss the flying.”
Why, you might ask? They were a bunch of aggressive, wise-ass, cocky, insulting, sarcastic bastards in smelly flight suits. They drank too much, they chased women, they flew when they shouldn’t, they laughed too loud and thought they owned the sky, the bar, and generally thought they could do everything better than the next guy. Nothing was funnier than trying to screw with a buddy and see how pissed off they would get. They flew helicopters that leaked, that bled RPM, that broke, that couldn’t hover, that burned fuel too fast, that never had all the radios and instruments working, and with systems that were archaic next to today’s new generation aircraft.
But a little closer look might show that every guy in the room was sneaky smart and damned competent and brutally handsome in his own way! They hated to lose or fail to accomplish the mission and seldom did. They were the laziest guys on the planet until challenged and then they would do anything to win. They would fly with rotor blades overlapped at night through the worst weather with only a little position light to hold on to, knowing their flight lead would get them on the ground safely. They would fight in the air knowing the greatest risk and fear was that some NVA anti-aircraft gunner would wait 'til you flew past him and open up on your six o’ clock with tracers as big as softballs. They would fly in harm’s way and act nonchalant as if to challenge the grim reaper.
When we flew to another base we proclaimed that were the best unit on the base as soon as we landed. Often we were not invited back. When we went into an O’ Club, we owned the bar. We were lucky to be the Best of the Best in the military. We knew it and so did others We found jobs, lost jobs, got married, got divorced, moved, went broke, got rich, broke some things, and knew the only thing you could count -- really count on -- was if you needed help, a fellow Army Aviator would have your back.
I miss the call signs, nicknames and the stories behind them. I miss getting lit up in an O’ Club full of my buddies and watching the incredible, unbelievable things that were happening. I miss the crew chiefs saluting as you got to your ship for a Zero-Dark:30 preflight. I miss pulling an armful of pitch, nosing it over and climbing into a new dawn. I miss going straight up and straight down. I miss the tension of wondering what today's 12 hours of combat flying would bring. I miss the craps table in the corner of the O-Club and letting it ALL ride because money was meaningless. I miss listening to BS stories while drinking and laughing until my eyes watered I miss three man lifts. I miss naps on the platoon hootch porch with a room full of aviators working up new tricks to torment the sleeper. I miss rolling in hot and watching my rockets hit EXACTLY where I was aiming. I miss the beauty and precision of a flight of slicks in formation, rock steady even in the face of tracers flying past you from a hot LZ. I miss belches that could be heard in neighboring states. I miss showing off for the grunts with high-speed, low level passes and abrupt cyclic climbs. I even miss passengers in the back puking their guts up.
Finally, I miss hearing DEAD BUG! called out at the bar and seeing and hearing a room full of men hit the deck with drinks spilling and chairs being knocked over as they rolled in the beer and kicked their legs in the air — followed closely by a Not Politically Correct Tap Dancing and Singing spectacle that couldn’t help but make you grin and order another round.
I am a lucky guy and have lived a great life! One thing I know is that I was part of a special, really talented bunch of guys doing something dangerous and doing it better than most. Flying the most beautiful, ugly, noisy, solid helicopters ever built ... an aircraft that talked to you and warned you before she spanked you! Supported by mechanics, crew chiefs and gunners committed to making sure we came home! Being prepared to fly and fight and die for America. Having a clear mission. Having fun.
We box out bad memories from various missions most of the time but never the hallowed memories of our fallen comrades. We are often amazed at how good war stories never let truth interfere and how they get better with age. We are lucky bastards to be able to walk into a reunion or a bar and have men we respect and love shout our names, our call signs, and know that this is truly where we belong. We are ARMY AVIATORS. We are Few and we are Proud to have been the first combat helicopter pilots the world ever saw.
I am Privileged and Proud to call you Brothers
Clear Right! Clear Left. Pullin' Pitch.
By Ron Seabolt
Many of you have heard this story without names. The two men involved in the story are now deceased and I will relate the story as I remember it. In February, 1995, I was searching for you guys like a man on fire. Our first big reunion was coming up in three months and there was no time to waste. One night I did a SS number search on Captain James H. Arnout. His last known address came up as Anchorage, AK. Using my set of CD Rom phone disc, I quickly had a phone number on him, just like I had done many times before.
I placed the call and changed some lives. When Jim answered and found out who I was and what I was doing, he immediately asked me if I had a guy named David Bascle located. A quick look showed I did not. Jim then told me this story.
David Bascle was his crew chief in Vietnam and when they returned to the states they were both assigned to Fort Campbell, KY. After a time had passed, one day David’s wife walked out on him leaving him with three kids with the oldest being a five year old boy. Jim and his wife adopted this five year old child. With military transfers and what have you they lost contact with each other. Jim told me that lately his son had been wondering whatever happened to his siblings.
I told Jim that with a name that uncommon, I had a good chance of finding him and would get back to him ASAP if I did.
Using the phone disc again, I found only one listing for David A. Bascle. It was in Louisiana. I placed the call and reached David’s wife who was so thrilled she could hardly speak. David was a tugboat Captain on the Mississippi and would be home the next day if I would please call back.
By now my blood is pumping pretty good on this as I called the next night. When David answered he told me that when he gave that boy up for adoption, he felt that he lost all rights to look for him. But he had prayed every night for years and years that he would hear some word of his where-abouts and I had answered that prayer. I gave both parties each other’s information and they agreed to meet at our Dallas reunion in three months. They asked that this be kept private.
David’s son went back to Louisiana with him for a couple of weeks to catch up on his brother and sister. I believe the sister had come down from Ohio.