Saber Article Index

2004 Jan-Feb

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

MEDEVAC crew chief Rick FREEMAN PEACELOVE928@YAHOO.COM remembers: "I had around 400 hours of flight time as a MEDEVAC crew member. Flying became as routine as getting in the car and driving is now. The experience of flying was heightened by flying with the doors open so there was nothing between you and that vast ocean of air. I enjoyed the flying, the aerial views of the countryside, flying above the clouds, and low level and contour flying.

"There were some anxious moments. We went on a mission and were told it might be hot so the pilots were maintaining 5000 feet. When we approached the pickup site we were told we would have to do a hoist mission. We hadn't prepared for that so the pilot came to a hover at 5000 feet so the Medic could take off the side door and prepare for a hoist mission. This was a strange feeling being at a standstill at 5000 feet. I don't think we hovered more than five minutes, but it was a long five minutes! I was relieved when we started getting some forward air speed again.

"We were flying into the Ashau Valley trying to pick up some wounded and were having trouble with the cloud cover. We tried going above the clouds to find an opening where we could get through. We went between two mountain peaks with the clouds obscuring the mountaintops so it was like flying through a tunnel. That was spooky. Rick"

Dave PARKS SHOOTDOWN@YAHOO.COM , '69-'70 MEDEVAC door gunner responded, "I hated to fly in the fog, stand on the skid with a foot out feeling for anything. But, the boys in the towers were good at getting us close to where we wanted to be. They would tell us to come to a hover, then say OK, start down; put us right in the revetment once. Ain't enough guys on this site to get me into another bird!"

To which Rick FREEMAN responded, "Shootdown, I didn't like flying in the fog. We went out on a hoist mission one night in the rain and it was pitch black. They used flares to get us over the site. Once we got over the site the pilot got vertigo and almost put us down in the trees. The other pilot pulled us up at the last minute. I haven't flown in a long time. I work next to a small airpark and watched a plane today doing some stunt flying, loops and rolls. Not for me. Rick"

GunnerGIBBS GUNNERMADMUR@AOL.COM adds, "Hey Rick, Were you with us at the Battle Of Hue when there was so much debris in the air you could not see too far? Anyway, we just made a pickup close to the Citadel of Hue and were flying back. Do you remember the antennas? Well, there they were and we were about to fly right into them.

"The AC pulled the MEDEVAC's nose straight up until we just about stalled and then does a tail spin and now we are coming straight down. He pulled up a again and now we are in level flight going back the same way we came. That was a combat stunt if I ever saw one. I didn't want to see an instant replay. All the other flying I could handle.

"Yes, I remember Ashau Valley. If you remember Rick, I was the NCOIC and I had to be first in line to get that Gama Globin shot. When you looked at me in pain I thought you were going to become some chickens...haha!! It hurt for 2 days. Try flying sitting on one cheek. My butt never hurt so much after that...President Murray."

And, adds more: "Hey guys, I think I have a big advantage on most of you. I was a radio teletype operator when I went to Vietnam. Well, that didn't happen over there. Ended up in the 15th MED Bn. as a radio operator at headquarters, Camp Radcliff. I didn't get along with the commo guys and their Sgt. When they asked for volunteers for MEDEVAC door gunners I jumped on it. My tour went from safe to extremely risky. Never lost my typing skills.

"Peacelove flew with me thru TET at the Battle of HUE. I know he can tell you that almost everyday and every time we went out on a mission I either shot at the enemy on the way down, in the LZ, or on the way back. Sometimes all three. The reason was snipers in trees just waiting for choppers flying back and forth from Camp Evans and the hot spots just north of the walls of Hue. You talk about setting a standard well, it was pure hell. On many, many occasions you saw and engaged company size groups of NVA. I believe Peacelove and I had a couple MEDEVACs shot up from under us in a couple of hours. The 3rd one didn't get shot up, from what I could remember that same day.

"I forgot to mention one thing, "I am slightly color blind" and almost failed the physical because of that. It proved to be my greatest advantage over the other gunners and crew chiefs."

Tom LAMMLE JTLAMMLE2@MSN.COM responded: "Hello Rick, I was your gunner for a while as well as for Randy BREWER. Just wanted to say Hi and let you know I am still kicking. I live in Moses Lake, WA. Send me an e-mail and let me know where you are now......."

Dave "Tater" PARKS also mentioned that during '69-'70 there were four members of MEDEVAC from Idaho. Dave-himself, Mike "tater" SMITH, Jack "Willie" WILLIAMSON, and Don DUNN. Dave said that DUNN didn't stay long. He wanted more action and went to 1-9 Cav Blues.

Dave also mentions a couple of phone #'s for those of you that may want to call. Gunner Richard HAMPSHER (989)354-3555. Also pilot, Fred ALBRIGHT (814)695-6937.

I think that Dick HAMPSHER had a CIB. I remember when I was first learning the MEDEVAC ropes, a stubby blond guy, always with a war face on and a silver and sky blue Combat Infantrymen's Badge, along with everyone else, making sure that I was doing things correct.

Norm ROBERGE NORMKARENN@AOL.COM wrote, "Thanks Murray for your comments on the [photo] album I'm in the process of putting together, and thanks to those who've e-mailed welcoming me to the party. I'll definitely be at the Reunion; also Richie KRAUS, John WATERMAN, Ken WOLLARD, (Weird) Ralph TUTRANI, and Henderson MCKEE, have said they'll try to be there. Also, think I might of found WO Paul HUTSON tucked away in Ohio; waiting for Art JACOBS to get back to me with confirmation. I've noticed most of you guys were there a little before or after me, but I definitely remember your mugs as I look at your pics; also Randy BREWER, probably Jim CALIBRO; and Bill MEEKS name sure sounds familiar...I live close to Portland so won't be needing any hotel room. Stay well...Bro Norm ROBERGE, Co C 15th...Apr '68-Mar-'69."

Jim RAMSEY JRAMSEYMSI@AOL.COM writes, "I have added Bill PICKLE's e-mail for you. Bill is now The Senate at Arms and is in DC. Thanks Jim"

From "Medic Tango..Floyd" SR71US@AOL.COM "MEDEVAC set a standard for me that no job or jobs have ever come close to.. in 30 years. I loved the job, the intensity, the camaraderie, and the fact that I was doing something 'positive' in an otherwise...situation.

"I'm proud of the job I did...however good or bad I did it... and I'm really proud to have been associated with men like yourselves <POINTING people MEDEVAC 15MED the all to>...I'm glad I extended for the extra 6 months...but it was time to leave forever when I left. I was hallucinating...I love reading about the missions...they bring back such memories...and makes me appreciate the guys and girls out there defending us now...It also makes me appreciate what you guys did...then and now. You're an integral part of the leadership of the youth of today at work and in your own home. This country is lucky to have guys like you Murray, Rick, and all the others...As I've said before...I'm proud to have been associated with men like you..even the Democrats! <LAUGHING>."

In response to the previously mentioned crash of MEDEVAC 457, Sept. 08, '67, gunner Jim CALIBRO wrote: "Mike, We had two crews out of LZ Uplift at the time. Ours and the other one mentioned. Like everything else I couldn't remember the exact dates. But a while back I was surfing through the old SNORE's site and found a list of KIAs SNORE had posted on the old Web site with the dates. Also Gunner GIBBS had sent me a list of KIAs that I think he had received from Fltpltsgt which had all the information on it.

"The helicopter actually exploded and crashed as it came into LZ Uplift, (that is another whole story in itself). It could be that they aren't classified as KIAs because they crashed, I don't know. Corky WALSH and his crew were flying out of LZ English at the time. I also believe CWO CASEY was at LZ Uplift when they crashed. Jim"

Dennis "Lxuplift672" CASEY CWOCASEY@AOL.COM does comment: "Yes, I was [there] and they were all shot up, BEFORE they crashed on [the] LZ; came in smoking to my left, missed America Mt. to their rear, went 30-45 degrees left to right, no capability of maintaining height, bounced off low sand bag revetment, skid got caught and twisted and fell feet down. Only a pilot like Roger ROSE could have done that!!

"The TOC was right on the LZ pad and my station was outside where we guys from the Evac Plt were standing by to offload wounded at all times. We heard all chatter and knew ROSE was in trouble all the way in. There were three full crews involved that night, not two. We did our best to extract everyone but it wasn't enough. Mr. ROSE was 23 and he was a friend to this 19 y.o. PFC. May they all rest in peace. regards doc"

After '69 MEDEVAC PSG Gordon RUSSELL had asked me if the familiar MEDEVAC patch-which is sold in the 1st Cav gift shop-was authorized or not, I tried to research that and also ran it by the members. Medic Tango stated, "Hi Mike, I don't want to take sole credit for the MEDEVAC patch, but myself and a couple of others got together and 'designed it'.

"We then had some Viet ladies stitch them into our green baseball caps. We used the crew wings to represent the helicopter part, the red cross from our helicopter for the medical part, and put the 'SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE' underneath to represent our mission. All this was on the Cav patch.

"I do not remember who else was involved, but it was a group effort...regardless. "Sorry I forgot to tell you the time frame.. it was summertime at Camp Evans, so it had to be May-Sept/'68. To my best recollection. Medic Tango."

That seems to be the case-although I didn't think they had a summer in Vietnam, just one big one-because Murray GIBBS says that he never saw that patch and he was MEDEVACed as WIA just prior to that. Jim CALLIBRO says that he never saw that patch and he dates back to '67. No one else has yet disputed that claim. Everyone else after that seems to have worn, possessed, or knew the patch.

From Victor "DocAdams1" ADAMS VICTORJADAMS@YAHOO.COM , "I served in South Vietnam with the 15th MED Cav between Dec '68 to June '69 as a front line medic with 1st and the 12th Bn. They called me Doc ADAMS because my last name. The guys said I acted like Doc ADAMS on the old TV program: Gunsmoke. I was loaned out to A and C company 1st & the 12th when I was out in the field. With 15th MED I was stationed, A Company, Tay Ninh, and then at Quan Loi with the company that I forget."

Bill "dad606" MEEKS MEEKS_W@MSN.COM responded: "Doc ADAMS, my name is Bill MEEKS. I was with A Co. 1st and the 12 Cav from Nov '68 till Feb of '69, then went to A Co. 15th MED, worked on the ward, then went to MEDEVAC in June of '69, till Nov of '69. I have a feeling we know each other. You can contact me at <MEEKS_W@MSN.COM>, would like to talk to you."

Damien D. VIERRA, known as "Pineapple," from Bellflower, CA, FIVEOINSC@MSN.COM , signed into the 1st Cav Assn. Guestbook on 11/15/03, and was shortly after welcomed into the 15th MED Assn. as a fellow MEDEVACer. He says that he left Vietnam in April of '71. '70-'71 MEDEVAC PSG James MCDONALD (CSM ret.) <CSMRET@TDN.COM>recognizes Damien as one of his SP4 67N2F crew chiefs.

Mark "DocDuckXray" DRAKE (DUCK) CATHIDRAKE@MSN.COM of Longmont, CO, writes, "The Profile list [on the 15th MED Assn. Community Web site] is a great idea! Comrades, please go to the list and fill it out A.S.A.P., as I think it will help greatly in getting many of us back together. I do not remember many names but many nicknames, please include yours when you fill it out.

"Just got the new Cav Calendar for 2004. Quite a shocker when I saw LZ Illingsworth on the calendar. I remember just a couple of days before it was hit, LZ Jay was also overrun. Those are a few days I will never forget at 15th MED in Tay Ninh, the 's' really hit the fan. A lot of good men were KIA and wounded on both of those Fire Bases.

"I was X-raying a Lt. from Illingsworth when he was handed a note with the guys he lost on the LZ. He turned and put his fist through the wall behind him. He told me he was going to put one of his men in for the MOH. Turns out that guy was Pete LEMON. There is more on the Web if anyone is interested, just look up MOH's or Pete LEMON. I talked to the Lt. a couple of years ago, he was not doing well, can't remember his name. Duck"

Doug CAMPBELL CAMPBELL624@HOTMAIL.COM , MEDEVAC Crew Chief '71-'72, A/C # 67-17624, also sent as an e-mail address: CAMPBELL624@YAHOO.COM , said that he was just engaged to be married for the first time, "Go figure." He remembered his Vietnam service, "Gliding over country breathless in its beauty until you come 'on station,' and its time to do your duty. Sometimes in the morning a mission called routine, meant dropping down through pea soup fog into triple canopy. Or trying to save a baby burnt by accident, who'll haunt you till the day you die with a pain that won't relent.

"While it was reasonable to question what the war was about, our mission was quite simple: to get the wounded. Flying into hell's fire, without a moments pause, because death was the enemy, life was the cause.

"You can feel your heart beat behind your chicken vest, knowing what it meant to hear, 'Fire has been suppressed.' Hovering under fire offering all you have to give, your dreams, your hopes, your future, SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE."

From "SureShrinkAlpha" Bruce BLAKESLEE BLAKESLE@UMDNJ.EDU "Wow. It is great to find you guys. I was in Phuoc Vinh and Tay Ninh '69-'70 as a Social Work/Psychology Tech. Looking for my NCO John BERNARD.

"I've avoided remembering most of my tour in Vietnam, at least until 9/11, and then it all began to flood back. Now, little by little I am more in your face with my history in the Cav. This was the biggest adventure of my life and, in many ways, has been ingrained in me and my life since. It's wild how you deny that until you can no longer keep it locked down. Anyhow, it is great to find this site and hope to hear from some of you. Bruce BLAKESLEE."

As I have mentioned before, there is congressional legislation pending for a combat badge for aeromedical evacuation crews as distinguished from the Combat Medical Badge for infantry Medics. There is now a Senate version, S.1487, introduced one month later by PA Senator Arlen SPECTER. One of my senators' offices told me that it will have to be reintroduced in the new session, as will the house version, HR 2587. <HTTP: cgi- bin/query/z?c108:S.1487>

The senate version wording specifies either awarding the Combat Medical Badge or a new badge which they want to call the Combat MEDEVAC Badge, or also abbreviated CMB. My thinking is that is nothing but confusion.

As I have said, having been both a Medic in the infantry in combat, and a flight Medic on MEDEVAC in combat, that there should be new badge created, and to preserve the exclusive, sanctity of the Combat Medical Badge for what it was intended, i.e. the infantry Medic.

Also, my thinking is that the new badge should be called the Combat Aeromedical Evacuation Badge, or CAB. That would not confuse it with the CMB, Combat Medical Badge. Two completely different, and completely exclusive functions. It is like the difference between a Senator, and a member of the House of Representatives. I do not think that they like to be confused with each other, if you need to explain that to them when you contact them about this.

As I have also mentioned before, MEDEVAC and DUSTOFF were radio call signs in Vietnam. When U.S. Army Aeromedical Evacuation was first started in the Vietnam War, the first aeromedical evacuation unit at the time was given the choice of some existing radio call signs for their use. They chose one that did not have a combat connotation, i.e. DUSTOFF. That call sign stuck and was used by every Army Aeromedical Evacuation unit in Vietnam, except the 1st Cavalry Division's Air Ambulance Platoon in the 15th Medical Battalion which adopted MEDEVAC as their call sign-as well as they also were the ONLY Army Aeromedical Evacuation unit in Vietnam to have M-60 machine guns mounted on their helicopters.

It seems the 1st Cav got it right because the aeromedical evacuation these days seems to be referred as "Medevac," thus the use of the term in the pending Senate version of the aeromedical evacuation combat badge. But, it doesn't have to be what they want to call it.

Tell them so, if you think different. We did it, they didn't do it!

The U.S. Army wants to keep the Combat Medical Badge exclusive to infantry Medics only, and I agree. So, not to confuse the two, as well as not to blend the two, the combat aeromedical evacuation badge would be better named: Combat Aeromedical Evacuation Badge, and abbreviated CAB. This would also be more inclusive to those veterans of the Vietnam War's DUSTOFF who may feel uncomfortable with the acronym term "Medevac" when there was a MEDEVAC, and there was a DUSTOFF.

We were, and they all are still, technically, aeromedical evacuation. Write, e-mail, contact your congressmen, and the respective Armed Services Committees if you agree with this proper, and distinctive wording. It's your country, it's your service; use it or lose it.

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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