Saber Article Index

2016 Mar-Apr

MEDEVAC 15th Med\15th FSB
Mike Bodnar
307B N Main Copperas Cove, TX 76522
1704 254-542-1961
E-mail: mbodnar27@juno.com

New 15th MED Assn. Webmaster Ron Huether sent over: "'Almost Getting Killed By Charlie,' The 15th Medical Battalion had, as one of its mascots, a monkey named Charlie (the nickname given to our enemy the Viet Cong). The story goes that his handler was the battalion veterinarian during the 1968-69 time frame. My recollection was that one of the flight Medics from the MEDEVAC platoon was his handler around the 1970-71 time frame. The Medic's name escapes me and all I remember is that we all called him 'Monkey Man.'

"When the 1st Cavalry Division was preparing to stand-down, the headquarters for the 15th Medical Battalion moved from Phouc Vinh to Bien Hoa. It was around March 1971, while I was at Bien Hoa standing around with a few crewmembers, that I remember Charlie coming out of one of the hooches dragging a .38 caliber hand gun, which he must have stolen from a MEDEVAC member's survival vest. In a flash we all disappeared behind sandbags and aircraft revetments - no one wanted to have their obituary state they were killed in Vietnam by a monkey…even if it could be reported accurately that the soldier would have been killed by 'Charlie.'

"A chorus of shouts pleaded, 'Monkey Man get that .38 away from Charlie.' To which Monkey Man answered, 'Screw you sir!' or some other more colorful refusal of an enlisted man to an officer. But Monkey Man came to our rescue by using some quick thinking. When Charlie would drink from a soda can, he would sit on the ground and hold the top of the can with one hand and using one foot would tip the bottom of the can up so the liquid would flow into his month. So Monkey Man's solution to this deadly situation was to throw a pop can out in front of Charlie. Sure enough Charlie put the gun down and picked up the soda can - and a half dozen of us all dove for the .38 at the same time."

Knowing that MEDEVAC and 15th MED had more important things to remember from Vietnam than stories about a monkey, I asked Ron if he had any harrowing stories from his time flying MEDEVAC. He sent the following: "'Snipers In Box Canyon' 8 February 1971 Ron Huether (Baby Huey) - AC (Aircraft Commander), John Goldsmith (Goldie) - Pilot, Jim Ferguson (Fergy) - Crew Chief, Dan Brady - Medic, and gunner Dave Cooper (Coop) were working from FSB Mace in the 1st Cav. Division AO. We received a call for wounded from a platoon trapped in a box canyon by a number of snipers. They scrambled with two AH-1 attack aircraft for the fifteen minute flight to a box canyon near the town of Ham Tan. As they arrived on the scene they were told to orbit to the southeast because the unit was still under fire and the area was insecure. About this time an OH-6 pilot was trying to 'burn out' the snipers by dropping white phosphorus grenades on the sniper's location. Unfortunately the grenades bounced off the jungle canopy and landed on the pinned down US troops.

"There were numerous US troops with white phosphorus burning through their skin and as they stood up and screamed, the snipers would pick them off. Though they were ordered not to go in, 'Baby Huey' asked the crew what they thought. All wanted to try a rescue using the rescue hoist. They told the gun birds they were going in and the Cobras set up their protective orbits. MEDEVAC flew in, hovered above the triple canopy and lowered the jungle penetrator. Being in a box canyon, with high ground on three sides of them, they presented as easy targets for the snipers.

"The first thing to be shot out was the rotating beacon, then bullets came through each red cross. Ferguson and Cooper were shooting their M-60's as fast as they could but to no avail. A bullet came up through the boot of the door gunner (Cooper), bounced off the chicken plate of the Medic (Brady), hit the transmission and then ricocheted forward striking Huether in the back of the helmet. When the bullet entered his helmet (he was flying) it threw him forward on the controls. At the same time, Cooper and Brady were shouting into the intercom that they were hit. The pilot, Goldsmith, thought that two crewmembers in the back were hit and that his AC was hit. He took the controls and departed the area for a nearby fire support base (FSB). Upon landing at the FSB, Ferguson jumped out and noticed the fuel lines were hit and told them to shut the aircraft down. "Another MEDEVAC (WO1 Gregg Simpson) then took over and attempted to complete the mission. His aircraft was also damaged before he could get any wounded out. An aircraft from the 45th MED. Co. had been called as backup for WO1 Simpson's aircraft. That aircraft was flown by 1LT Tom Lacy.

"By the time Lacy got to the wounded the snipers had departed and he was able to hoist the wounded without any problems. More than half of that platoon were killed by the snipers and almost everyone left was a casualty." From the guys without the guns, the DUSTOFF Hall of Fame lists: "LTC Ronald (HUEY) Huether spent all but one assignment in AMEDD aviation positions working to mentor junior aviators. He is a Master Aviator with 5,500 hours flight time, qualified in: UH-1, OH-58, T-42, U-21, C-12, and numerous civilian aircraft and holds an Airline Transport Pilot's rating. After flight school he went to Vietnam earning the Silver Star, multiple Distinguished Flying Crosses, numerous Air Medals, a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Committed to the Kelly legacy, he performed hundreds of missions under enemy fire and is credited with saving hundreds in Cambodia and Vietnam. On 8 Feb 71, he responded to an urgent call from a platoon under enemy fire with half the unit already killed or wounded. Positioning his aircraft above the platoon he attempted hoisting the most severely wounded but was hit in the helmet by an enemy bullet. Regaining aircraft control he made an emergency landing of the disabled aircraft. He was the first medical aviator qualified with AN/AVS-6 NVGs and developed equipment requirements for the UH-60 air ambulance. Ron 'Huey' Huether was inducted into the DUSTOFF Hall of Fame on 13 April 2013."

Trevor Cliburn cli7979@gmail.com writes, "I am the son of a vet that was in same battalion, 15th MED Battalion, '68-'69 in Phouc Vinh. He is trying to contact anyone he served with. His name is Robert (Groovy) Coggins. This is his phone number. (615)614-5898. Or e-mail at this address. Thank you." Terry McCarl terryamccarl@gmail.com wants to remind: "Assuming that you are seeing this in the 15th MED column of the March-April 2016 issue of SABER around the 1st of April, it is still not too late to make plans to attend the 15th MED Bn. Assn. Reunion in Olympia, WA, April 11-16, 2016. The deadline for reserving rooms at the Red Lion at the reunion rate of $94 plus tax was March 20. However you probably can still reserve a room there (call 800-733-5466 and ask for Military Discount) or somewhere close. Contact Larry Hatch, campingout@comcast.net , or (360)491-6486 and he can probably help you find somewhere to stay.

"All the information on the Reunion is on the new Website <www.15thmedbnassociation.org>. If you don't have Internet access, call Larry Hatch for information. Registration at the Reunion can be done, but please contact Larry ASAP and let him know that you are coming so that meal counts, etc. can be as accurate as possible." Terry adds: "Check out the new 15th MED Website! The new 15th Medical Bn. Assn. Website has been available since 10-29-15! If you have not checked it out yet, just go to www.15thmedbnassociation.org , and see the great job that new Webmaster, Ron 'Huey' Huether has been doing!

"Pretty much every day, there is something new to see. The Website is a work in progress, and it will be some time before all pertinent information is transferred from the old Website, www.15thmedassociation.com, which will remain accessible for historical and other information until such information is transferred to the new Website.

"The new Website has all the information that you need about the April 11-16, 2016 Reunion in Olympia, WA, including registration forms. You can help develop the Website by e-mailing photos that you have to 'Huey.' Instructions are on the top of the 'Photos' page.

"There are war stories in the Website. If you have some that you would like to share, e-mail them to Huey. Instructions are on the top of the 'War Stories' page. Also, please review the Guestbook entries and make an entry yourself. Take a few minutes and check the Website out. There is a lot of information on it!"

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

FIRST TEAM!
Garryowen,
Mike Bodnar C 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70
SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE