This letter has been circulating via e-mail. In it, COL
Bradly MacNealy, the commanding officer
of Task Force 185th Aviation Group from the Mississippi National Guard,
expresses his appreciation for those who have gone before him. On behalf
of the Association, we'd like to likewise express our appreciation for
the efforts and sacrifices being made by our people serving in harm's way now.
Good luck and God speed!
From Iraq on Veterans Day
On Veterans Day this Thursday, November 11th we will honor all those service
members and their families that have served and sacrificed before us. We deeply
respect and admire the dedication and selfless service of all combat veterans.
Task Force 185th Aviation would like to dedicate our success here in Iraq
to the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots that developed the basics of our modern day
Army Aviation doctrine. Thanks to our predecessors we have the most modern
high tech aircraft, we have tried and true tactics, techniques and procedures
and we have the proven skills to accomplish our mission. When we arrived in
Iraq we were more than prepared for the challenge.
In contrast the helicopter pilots of Vietnam were young men that went from
high school to flight school and then straight to Vietnam. The average age
of a helicopter pilot in Vietnam was in their early 20's and the concept of
helicopters in combat was a novelty. 35 years later, the average age of TF
185th pilots is 34 and the average flight experience is almost 3,000 hours.
Despite their inexperience, the Vietnam era pilots were fearless and innovative
as they adapted and developed ways to utilize the helicopter in combat.
The 185th is mostly a National Guard and Reserve task force. While most Vietnam
Veterans have long been retired, 10% of our pilots are Vietnam "old timers" in
their mid 50's. Over the years these veterans along with many others have been
our mentors and role models as we trained and prepared for combat.
The enemy in Vietnam was more ferocious, smarter, and dedicated. Iraqi insurgents
are cowards, picking on the innocent, or using hit and run tactics to avoid
a fight. The Viet Cong may have used hit and run tactics, but they were deliberate
in their prosecution of the war. When in a situation they couldn't back out
of, they fought fiercely.
Shoulder fired man portable anti-aircraft missiles appeared at the end of
the Vietnam War, so the aviators did not have to contend with them for long.
What they learned about these new, small heat seeking missiles was critical
to our tactics today. The greatest threat to our aircraft in Iraq is encountering
new versions of this man portable anti-aircraft missile.
Due to the enemy threat and dense airspace usage here in Iraq detailed and
time consuming mission planning is a way of life. Fortunately we have the computers,
software and internet transmitted airspace coordination means to create computer
generated maps and mission data for each flight. We also have GPS navigation
systems, long range radios and complete flight instruments. For protection
we only fly in pairs here, while in Vietnam they many times flew single ship
with minimal pre-planning time using only a map and compass.
Today in Iraq, safety is paramount to everything we do. We even say our biggest
enemy is ourselves in the form of an accident. We are required to conduct thorough
risk analysis and track our duty time to prevent fatigue. In contrast, Vietnam
Vets developed safety procedures only after frequent accidents or shoot-downs.
In Iraq we also enjoy the tactical advantage of flying "blacked out" at
night with Night Vision Goggles that were not invented back then.
But, perhaps the greatest difference between Iraq and Vietnam is the support
at home. Today we enjoy widespread support on the home front. Even those who
can't see why we are fighting rarely slander soldiers when they protest the
war. This may be in part due to 9/11, but it is also because our nation remembers
the nature of 1960s war protesters, and their actions toward returning Vietnam
Vets. Such conduct is no longer acceptable in mainstream American society.
This quote by Vietnam Veteran CW4 Ronnie Wells makes it clear:
"When comparing Vietnam to Iraq, there were a few things that were painful.
First, we went as individuals, not as units. We came and went at different
times. We often left in the middle of the night, coming home to a town that
may or may not have known you even left. We were cursed, called baby killers,
and completely disrespected for many years. You, however, are seen as heroes
and should receive the accolades you deserve."
We in Task Force 185th have a lot to thank the Aviators of Vietnam for, from
their pioneering tactics in Air Mobile Warfare; to the way they proved what
was needed in the way of future aircraft. The burdens they bore both at war
and at home have made our success in Iraq possible. We could write a book about
this issue, but not at this time. We ask that you forward this email to a Vietnam
aviator, crewmember or mechanic and thank them.
On this Veterans Day we also want to give a special thanks to our family
members for their sacrifices this year while we serve in Iraq. Your thoughts,
support and prayers are literally a God send. Our families are now veterans
too and they are our heroes!!!
TF 185th Aviation
"In the Sunni Triangle"