Saber Article Index

2000 Nov-Dec

MEDEVAC 15th Med\15th FSB
Mike Bodnar
307B N Main Copperas Cove, TX 76522
1704 254-542-1961

SNORE, our 15th MED organizer and MEDEVAC crew chief, '69- '70, i.e. Sherman BREEDEN SNORE@VABCH.COM , signed into his MEDEVAC\15th MED Web site's Guestbook on 09/06/2000 and said that the reason for his unexplained, recent absence is because he has been recovering from surgery, and that he may need more. Get well SNORE!

This information was submitted for the last Saber but my additions and corrections to the edited column did not get printed, if you noticed any strange typos. I also added to the information that the 1st Cav's MEDEVAC was the only Army aeromedical evacuation unit in Vietnam to have M-60 machine gun armament which my addition mentioned: that was from Jan '66 and thereafter; not before.

SNORE later posted a message to all about next year's 15th MED gathering in New Mexico. This shows that he is participating as much as he possibly can, health permitting. You can view his Web site and Guestbook-sign in!-for more information. It would not hurt at all if you also e-mailed him and relayed your get well wishes. He has brought a lot of people together!

In the last Saber I mentioned correspondence from Jim BRODIE, JBR8519738@AOL.COM MEDEVAC, HSC 15th MED, '65-'66, who mentioned a couple of his buddies who had just died from Agent Orange. I also mentioned that my buddy from C 2\7 Cav '69, Bob HACKNEY, had just died, whose service connection was admitted to by the V.A. with a 100% disability, due to Agent Orange in Vietnam. Only days after I had submitted that column I read in B.G. BURKETT's book: STOLEN VALOR, his twenty-five page research on the "Myth of Agent Orange." Being the last person on planet earth who would want to perpetrate any myth, I highly recommend reading BURKETT's heavily footnoted treatise.

He mentions that the controversy of Agent Orange is politics and not science. He again shows the power of the media. I had heard what everyone else had over the years, and recently read about other Vietnam veterans who were diagnosed like my buddy Bob, with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

BURKETT does leave that rare disease as one of three that are associated with exposure to herbicides. He goes on to mention that there is little evidence to prove it. I just find it awfully suspicious that these Vietnam veterans are being diagnosed with, and sometimes dying from, the same illnesses.

Bob HACKNEY came out to us in C 2\7 Cav as a replacement in July '69. Our busiest and bloodiest time in Tay Ninh Province had just ended, I can say in hindsight. Bob was a draftee who had a degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin. He had been trained as an 11Bravo who had also been taught to drive an APC but he would not use that second skill in the Air Cav. He did obtain immediate employment in the 1st Platoon's Gun Squad, and worked his way up to R.T.O. which was more suited to his journalism degree.

After at least six months in the field Bob was able to even better use his journalism knowledge and got a rear job in 1st Brigade P.I.O. Some years ago at one of the Reunions, Roy STERN, one of our 1st Platoon squad leaders, told me that he had put Bob in for that job. Bob somehow was involved with the CBS news team led by John LAURENCE who is mentioned in J.D. COLEMAN's book: INCURSION. Bob brought them over to my MEDEVAC helicopter and introduced them to me when I was flying out of Tay Ninh once in '70. I remember that the cameraman was an Australian. What they filmed became a three part CBS Evening News feature called: "The World of Charlie Company," which later became a one hour Bill MOYERS' PBS documentary. That "Charlie Company" filmed just happened to be C 2\7 Cav which makes me wonder just how involved Bob HACKNEY was with that news team; that they just happened to go out to the field company that Bob had been in. Was that a coincidence or Bob's suggestion?

That documentary depicts a relatively quite period for C 2\7 Cav in comparison to its previous history in the Vietnam War in the 1st Cav Division. It does, though, show them going into Cambodia, which C 2\7 Cav had the honor of being the first American unit into Cambodia during the Incursion. I thought that was some kind of poetic justice for having been, from my research, the most decimated company in the Ia Drang Campaign in '65 due to taking the brunt of the assault at LZ ALBANY. As well as escorting that CBS news team Bob also went out with us on a MEDEVAC hoist in Cambodia for the 199th LIB. Bob just quietly observed and may have written something about it. GARRYOWEN Bob! R.I.P.

I recently saw an article on the ABC nightly network news about the U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer program who become officially know as Aviation Survival Technicians. After rigorous training-if they qualify-they, while on active duty, rescue American citizens in trouble in the water around the country. The article said that they use the motto: "so that others may live," which happens to be the same as the 1st Cav's 15th MED Air Ambulance Platoon-call sign: MEDEVAC.

I wondered who made whom, or which unit used that motto first, of course thinking that MEDEVAC was the original. So, I sent an e-mail to one reference given on their Web site and I received this interesting reply:

"Mike, Hello, thanks for the e-mail. Good question, but I will have to do some research on that one. I know for a fact that the Navy rescue swimmer program was developed during the Vietnam War and I'm not sure about the Air Force Para-rescue, or "PJs." Both of these programs use the slogan "So That Others May Live." And both of these have been around since long before the CG rescue swimmer program. I'll do some checking and get back to you.

"I now work for the North Carolina National Guard at a UH-60 Blackhawk unit. I have been a crew chief for about 5 years and since two of our hawks have rescue hoists I am spearheading developing a rescue program which is hard since the Army does not have any other training doctrine other than working with trained pilots on forest penetrators.

"Most of our work is on State duty if [there is] a hurricane or flood or some other natural disaster, so we are dealing with the rescue of civilians which takes on a whole new concept in helo rescue. I have been able to purchase equipment for this purpose and to my knowledge we are the only outfit in the Army with this type of stuff. Of course I also am probably the only former CG helo rescue swimmer in the National Guard nationwide, as a matter of fact I know I am. You can imagine my dilemma with trying to get our people training. "Naval helo rescue swimmer school has far too much of a drop out rate for the National Guard to send [anyone there] (its only one month long) and the CG rescue swimmer program is 6 months so that's out. Both are a little much for most of our folks to handle for just a state duty mission. I will continue to work on developing a program for our unit to use, and hopefully the Army will take a look and follow suit. Thanks again, I hope to talk to you soon. Brant MCGEE" I have not yet heard back from Brant. I cannot confirm if the Navy and Air Force did or do use SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE or some variation of it. SNORE did find and posted that an Air Force rescue unit is using: "so others may live," a slight variation.

It does happen that some military units will use the same motto for their own purposes. The U.S. Coast Guard uses as one of their mottos: SEMPAR PARATUS-"always ready," which is also the motto of the 12th U.S. Cavalry. If it fits, use it. Mottos, I would assume, are public domain.

I once saw a map of the Clans of Scotland and where they lived, or where their lands are or were in Scotland. One of the Clans used, and it was on the map by their name: THIS WE'LL DEFEND. That of course is the motto used by the U.S. Army Drill Instructors; so much for originality, but well put to use. For the job that can effect us all as Americans, the U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers are very much in the same tradition as the 1st Cav's MEDEVAC and can proudly claim the use of-SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE.

In that 1st Cav MEDEVAC tradition the following is a story taken from the 1st Cav Division's Vietnam War newspaper, the Cavalair, called: "Those Cav MEDEVACS; They Just Won't Give Up" By PFC Nick MATUSZECK: "Phouc Vinh - Two wounded infantrymen were finally pulled from the jungle near the Song Be Bridge recently, but not before two MEDEVAC helicopters were shot down in the effort to get them out. One wounded man, dropped by one of the birds before it crashed, spent an hour strapped to a rigid litter listening to the enemy moving around his location before he was rescued. "The incident began when three wounded members of the 25th Infantry Division's 91-A element were being extracted from the Jungle near the Song Be Bridge in Binh Duong Province. Before they could be pulled out, however, intense enemy fire brought down the DUSTOFF bird, a craft supporting the 25th. While 25th Infantry Division Cobras circled high above, a MEDEVAC bird from the 1st Air Cavalry Division's 15th Medical Battalion answered the "Mayday" call from the stricken aircraft.

"Warrant Officer Joel MORRIS, MEDEVAC 26 commander, rushed to the crash site and, communicating with ground units, found the crew of the downed bird had been rescued. However, there were still three critically wounded men on the ground who needed immediate evacuation, MORRIS briefed his crew on their individual responsibilities, then called the ground unit for approach instructions.

"As the bird came in low over the high jungle canopy and prepared to drop the rigid litter by cable, muzzle flashes were spotted from enemy gun emplacements. The door gunners, Specialist 5 Robert VALENCIA and Specialist 4 Daniel WEAVER, opened up hot and heavy with their machine guns in an attempt to suppress the enemy fire.

"After quickly taking the craft out of range MORRIS and Warrant Officer Barry BROWN, the Co-Pilot, came in for another approach from a different route. As the bird hovered over the jungle, Specialist 4 Gregory SHAFER, the Medic, and crew chief Jonathan HODGES lowered the hoisting cable and the litter through the treetops. But, the enemy gunners soon zeroed in on the stationary chopper as the crew exposed itself while struggling to hoist the first injured man to safety. [There must be a mistake here because there is mention of two named door gunners, a crew chief, and the Medic, which makes one crewmember too many. I will research this.]

"Despite their efforts, however, the rescue had to be aborted as several burst of automatic weapons fire tore into the chopper's transmission. The patient below, strapped to the litter, was at a height of about five feet when the chopper crew was forced to cut him loose as they rapidly lost altitude. Pilot MORRIS barely got the bird to a small clearing where he crash-landed the aircraft. After a quickly- called appeal over the radio for assistance, MORRIS and his crew abandoned the burning aircraft. Armed with two M-60 machine guns and their pistols, they prepared for the worst and set up a defensive perimeter around their burning ship. Fortunately, a rescue ship reached them ahead of the enemy and they were soon on their way to safety.

"The commander of the second bird, Chief Warrant Officer Christopher WICKLAND, found himself faced with the same situation as the previous rescue pilot: the flight crew he'd intended to rescue was already out, but wounded men remained with the ground unit. To add almost unbearable urgency to the situation, the man who'd been dropped still hadn't been located.

"With the gunners pouring out suppressing fire, the extraction of the first patient went without a hitch as the crew exposed themselves to possible fire. A quick flight to Phouc Vinh to rush the wounded man to medical aid was followed by the successful search for the dropped litter patient. Even though his chances for survival were thin, the crew of MEDEVAC 18 refused to abandon him. WICKLAND was told by the ground unit that the first bird had carried the litter approximately 30 meters from the pickup site before dropping it. Assisted by a LOH, WICKLAND and his crew began an intensive search for the downed man and litter.

"Finally, the LOH crew spotted the wounded man waving from a nearly-concealed spot in the brush. The MEDEVAC bird dropped down near his location, crewmembers hanging out the doors onto the skids to spot the man's position. Fortunately, the bird was able to come low enough to allow [James] VICTOR and Specialist 4 Joe KELLY, the Medic, to jump to the ground, gather up the wounded man on the litter, and load him back into the bird for the life-saving flight to Phouc Vinh.

"The patient later told of lying in the brush for an hour, unable to move and in pain, listening to the enemy moving in the brush around him. In an impact awards ceremony following the action, Brigadier General Jonathan R. BURTON, Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Cavalry Division commended the courage of the crews of MEDEVAC 18 and 26. Every member of MEDEVAC 26-MORRIS, BROWN, VALENCIA, WEAVER, SHAFER and HODGES received Distinguished Flying Crosses. Aircraft Commander WICKLAND and Pilot SIMPSON of MEDEVAC 18 also received Distinguished Flying Crosses, while KELLY, SPARKMAN and VICTOR each received Air Medals for Valor." This Cavalair edition was contributed by MEDEVAC pilot Barry BROWN; thanks Barry."

Always remembering our 1st Cav troops on duty around the world; over and out.

Mike Bodnar C 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70

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