War Stories 9

Enjoy the stories in this section. Some of them may even have been true!! Have a favorite war story you've been relating over the years? Well sit down and shoot us a draft of it. Don't worry, we'll do our best to correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling before we publish it. to us and we'll publish them for all to enjoy.

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Sent by John Lonon

There is a mystique about Medevac. So much has been written of the courage, the dedication and esprit de corps of the men in Medevac that today they live with legend.

"It's why I joined the Army," said Medevac pilot Warrant Officer Richard Leonard. "There's something about saving a life - and the way Medevac does it, defying the odds - that makes it appealing."

"I've never seen a mission aborted," said SP4 Dick Gamester, who monitors Medevac Control at Phouc Vinh. "I've seen missions delayed by weather and suppressive fire, but never called off. There are nights when the only birds in the sky are Medevac." The esprit de corps touches everyone. You can't get into the program unless you volunteer, and even then the competition is tough.

SP4 Mike Vineyard, a helicopter mechanic at 15th Med, worked in a maintenance shop before he got a shot at a crew chief position in Medevac. "I frequently flew doorgunner when we'd go after a downed bird," he said. "You just do it." "When a bird goes down, everyone heads for the pad. It's like a brotherhood."

That startling routine response to a call that seems beyond that of duty is part of the mystique of Medevac. Yet there is another side. "It gets to be a little hairy at times," said Medevac pilot CPT Ernest Bayford. "But I wouldn't say there's excessive strain on anyone." He's right, of course. Medevac teams lead a very comfortable life when the going is slow. Half their time is free. Even at the brigade field hospitals, where the teams are on call 24-hours a day, they have no duties until suddenly, though routinely, they are called to scramble.

"Downed aircraft, let's go!" CPT Bayford shouted from the doorway of the crew quarters. It was 2:21 p.m. and the scramble was on. The crew reached the chopper at full stride; in minutes it was airborne, hitting 100 knots at treetop level. The bird climbed to 2,000 feet; then nine minutes after the call and 10 miles northeast of Quan Loi, the descent began.

They circled once at 300 feet as a Cobra gunship pulled in behind. The downed aircraft was somewhere in the think green foliage below. A light observation helicopter (LOH), flying as low as it could, finally spotted the wreckage and marked it with purple smoke.

Aircraft commander Bayford banked the ship to the left and hovered over the now visible downed helicopter, its slender tail protruding through the bamboo. It was 2:33 when SP5 William Meeks attached the yellow, torpedo-like jungle penetrator to the cable hoist and lowered it to the bamboo below.

On the ground a man grasped at it and, shielding his face from the entangling brush, rode the cable skyward. He looked straight up at the chopped with a strained smile, drawing closer, closer until he could touch the skid, grab the medic's hand and pull himself aboard.

"We've got to get the pilot out! We've got to, got to!" he said again and again, breathing hard as he lay against the cabin wall. The whine of the hoist started up again bringing the rescued doorgunner to the side of the ship and inside. He clutched at the medic. It was 2:35 p.m. "He's trapped, I couldn't budge him. He waved me away," the man blurted out. "We've got to get him out, we've got to." said the doorgunner. "They will. They will," answered the medic.

The ship gained altitude slowly, banked to the left and circled again at 300 feet. It was up to the Blues now - the crack infantry element of the 1st Squadron 9th Cavalry, already airlifted into the area and maneuvering toward the downed aircraft and its pinned pilot.

The Medevac chopped circled above. SP5 Meeks turned at once to his patients, wrapping and taping the crushed toes of the doorgunner.

As the chopper passed over the crash site for the fourth time, a thick cloud of white smoke erupted from the bamboo below, and there was a bright red flash from the ground. "Hey, man our ship just blew up!" the wounded doorgunner shouted. He turned to the medic with his eyes wide and fearful. The medic talked into his radio mouthpiece, listened, and then looked at his patient.

"He's all right. The Blues got him out. He's okay."

The helicopter circled down to land in a yellow meadow close to the crashed and burning chopper. The rescued doorgunner looked past the medic. A big smile shot across his face as he flashed the "V" sign at the freed pilot, now sprinting toward the ship. "You're the greatest. You're the greatest," the rescued pilot cried to the Medevac crew as he climbed aboard. Then he turned and lunged at his own two crew members who caught him in a wild embrace.

Medevac saves pilot.Medevac saves downed pilot.

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Super King Saves Lives

Sent by John Lonon

FSB David, Cambodia - "The Super King is the strongest ship we've got," said SP4 doorgunner Rick Goodson of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). "It's always been able to do everything we've wanted it to do."

Super King medevac helicopter.On the last day of May, the Medevac bird for Co. A, 15th Med. Bn., working for the Cav's 1st Bde., ran its 747th mission of the month and carried its 1500th infantryman to the rear for medical treatment.

The Cav's Super King is usually in the air minutes after being requested by an infantry unit.

"Once we're in the air we find out the unit's location, the enemy location, nature of the contact, number of injured, and the extent of their injury. Also we have to coordinate with our companion gunship, and the air controllers whose areas we pass over," Said LT Dennis Schmidt, the pilot of Super King.

Approaching a pickup spot, the five men function as one. If the terrain prevents landing, Goodson and SP4 crew chief David Morse lean out of their gunwells to guide the sip as close to the ground as possible.

"We're in a constant state of correction when we're hovering. It's the time when we're most unstable. That's why the people on the ground have to be ready and do their best, "said Schmidt.

The infantrymen on the ground can make the job easier for Super King's medic, too, said SP5 Mike Bodnar, who spent seven months in the field as a medic with the 2nd Bn., 7th Cav., before extending to fly Medevac.

"We often have to keep him breathing when he doesn't want to breathe, and keep him living when he doesn't want to live. The more they can do on the ground for him, the better chance the serious patient has of making it," Bodnar said.

Although the crew's credo is that you shouldn't commit yourself to a mission unless you think you can get out once you're in, many 1st Cav infantrymen are alive today because of the men of Medevac.

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In-country Checkride

By Ron (Baby Huey) Huether

As a young 23-year-old fresh out of Flight School Medical Service Corps Second Lieutenant I was told (by every Vietnam era slick pilot) that I was going to a chicken-shit Dustoff unit. Those same pilots also went on and on about saving thousands of more patients than any Dustoff.

And so it was that I’m going through in-processing at Ben Hoa that I notice an air ambulance land that had two M-60 machine guns mounted on it. I nudged the personnel Warrant making assignments and asked him what unit those cowboys belong to. He tells me, “Oh…that’s the Cav.” I immediately tell him that’s the unit I want to be assigned to thinking how lucky I was going to be. Not only was I going to have hot-and-cold running nurses at my “MASH” unit, but I’d also have two M-60s to keep my young ass in relatively one piece during my tour. Ahhhhhhhhh, dreams of a young Second Lieutenant with shiny unscratched silver wings on his chest.

Ron Baby Huey HuetherOne of the first events I had to attend during in-processing was throwing a hand grenade on the range. Great, they didn’t teach hand grenades at the Academy of Health Sciences (something about saving lives not taking them) so I was jacked up.
Now I’m standing on the ready line and about to throw my first hand grenade when one of those loony Cav air ambulances comes shooting in and every NCO on the range is screaming, “Cease fire, cease fire!!” Out pops the pilot from the right seat and he screams, “Is there a Lieutenant Hoyther here?” I meekly stand up and say, “Are you looking for Lieutenant Huether?” He screams that it was close enough and to get my ass in the back of the Medevac.

It’s explained to me that Medevac had just lost some birds and crewmembers in a place called Medevac Meadows and I was needed as ballast in the right seat of Little Okie’s aircraft. So off to the Parrot’s Beak or Fish Hook for some impromptu “this is how you conduct a Medevac” taught by brother Hank Tuell.

All this sets the background for my hold baggage eventually catching up to me a week later at Phuoc Vinh and being told I might have been good looking ballast for Little Okie but I hadn’t had my in-country checkride. And, I’m told, I ain’t a pilot until a something called Mr. Leonard ssssssaaaayyyyys I’m a pilot.

So, the next day I meet this CW2 Leonard character and I can tell right away I’m wearing the wrong brass to catch a break on any maneuver I might need additional “coaching” on. We jump into an aircraft and off we go to some abandoned French plantation airfield to conduct an in-country checkride with this character mumbling into the intercom something about cherries and damned RLOs.

I’m expecting the standard checkride – oral emergency procedure quizzing followed by a hovering autorotation, and a litany of other normal emergency procedures. Same-old-same-old ride I’ve aced my whole extensive aviation career…all nine months.
Nope, that’s not what the checkride consisted of. Leonard lands the helicopter at this old abandoned runway, then comes to a hover, noses the aircraft over so the toes of the skids are about a tenth-of-an-inch above the runway slamming the cyclic forward until the bird is going 124 knots down the runway with the toes of the skids a pancakes thickness off the runway. At 124 knots, he pulls the cyclic all the way backwards and we shoot into the sky at some toward 1800 feet-per-minute rate of climb. After about a minute we’re at a couple thousand feet and zero airspeed when this jerk speaks into the intercom through is unkempt mustache and says, “OK Lieutenant, you’ve got the controls.” As I grab the controls he rolls off the throttle and says, “Now autorotate back to the airfield.”

Well, I had heard the phrase Assholes and Elbows before and even thought I understood what the phrase meant – but not until that second did I REALLY know the definition of Assholes and Elbows! Through pure luck and my butt sucking so intently that I somehow found enough atmosphere to turn the bird around and fall out of the sky back to the airfield with a “perfect” (OK, three bounces) running landing.

And so it was, that this thing called Mr. Leonard signed me off as a worthy member for the Dumb RLO Copilot ready roster.

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