War Stories 8
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Ever Eaten K-rations
(sometimes called LRRPs)?
By Baby Huey
It seems you can’t put a bunch of GIs anywhere before they adopt
some living thing as their mascot. So it was with the 15th Med.
Boom (L) and Deros (R)
At Phuoc Vinh in the early 70s, we had Deros, Boom-boom, and a few other dogs.
And who can forget Charlie the monkey or that cute sun bear (until it got
bigger…much bigger)? At Tay Ninh, we had the ever-present Otis the pig.
Most of the dogs in Vietnam were kind of straggly looking, ya
know…unkempt. But Deros always looked like a high-class dog and very
feminine looking. She was the favorite of many over toward Medevac Ops until
the mascot culling day. The powers-to-be thought there were too many mascots
and directed a limit of one mascot for each organization. So it was that
Deros was whisked away to LZ Mace.
loved to jump on board our Medevacs when leaving for a mission, but only the
cold missions. If we were going out to pick up a broken leg, truck crash,
twisted ankle, Deros was the first four paws on the aircraft. But on several
occasions, Deros would hang back or not even leave the hooch. And on those
missions, we “always” came back with holes in the skin of our Medevac. How
she knew cold missions from hot ones is a mystery; maybe it was how edgy we
were in anticipation of a bad mission.
I remember being at Mace in the early months of 71. As was our
tradition, if we got a call from a Long-Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP)
team needing a member (or a couple of team members) hoisted out of the
jungle, we’d charge for the service. The fee was for the LRRP to hand over
his K-rations (dehydrated rations, which became the forerunner to MREs (Meal
Ready to Eat). So it was that we got a call from an LRRP team that had set
up a night ambush for the bad guys. Well, in discussing just who owned a
particular trail, some bad guys stopped breathing, but we also had a couple
of wounded LRRPs. We fly out, hoist them up into the aircraft, and the GIBs
(Guys in the Back) stripped the LRRP of his K-rations. The coveted meal was
chili con carny.
We get back to the hooch about 2200, and our crew chief (he
out-ranked the whole crew when it came to chili con carny) starts up how he
invented the perfect cooking technique for chili con carny K-rations. It
seems if you just add hot water to the pouch, the rice will get done
perfectly, but the beans would still be as hard as pebbles on a beach. His
solution – sit and tirelessly pick out every bean and marinate them in a cup
of water for about 15 minutes. Then add the beans back into the pouch, add
hot water and PRESTO perfect eats.
Off goes the crew chief heaping accolades on himself about how
intelligent he was and beginning the 15-minute ritual of picking perfect
pinto beans. He just adds the beans to a cup of water when the alarm goes
off - we have another night hoist mission.
The whole way out and the WHOLE way back from the mission, the crew
chief is constantly chattering over the intercom about how his marinated
beans will be ABSOLUTELY perfect by the time we get back. I mean, we other
crewmembers actually thought about making the world a better place by
tossing the crew chief out the cargo door and letting his chatty mouth fall
1500 feet into the jungle.
Upon entering the hooch, we hear a blood-curdling scream from the
crew chief. Turns out, in our absence, Deros, the dog had knocked over the
cup and eaten all the beans!
By Larry Hatch (Gray Ghost)
U.S. Army UH-1D Medevac helicopter named “Old
Reliable” came “full circle” the weekend of August 13, 2016. “Old Reliable”
served as a Medevac aircraft in Vietnam from September 1965 to September
1967. I flew the aircraft until it was replaced with a much needed (and)
more powerful UH-1H model in September 1967. At the request of the crew
chief, Ronnie Trogdon, I painted Donald Duck on the battery box cover and
named her “Old Reliable.” Sadly, SP4 Trogdon was killed by enemy fire during
a Medevac mission on June 19, 1967. I finished my tour with the 1st Cavalry
Division (AM), 15th Medical Battalion, Air Ambulance Platoon in November of
John Walker and his American Huey “369” crew hosted their
10th annual gathering of veterans and patriots at the Montgomery Aviation
(FBO) Grissom Aeroplex in Peru, Indiana August 13-14, 2016. This was a
special weekend for ten Medevac crewmembers and seven family members to
again pay tribute to a beloved and reliable old friend, UH-1 Helicopter #
John Walker accidentally discovered 803
deteriorating alongside a remote hangar and became her proud owner in 2005;
she was restored to flight status by July 2009 and added to a growing fleet
of restored Vietnam-era Huey helicopters.
“Old Reliable” at LZ Uplift in 1967
Medevac crewmembers have been attending the
annual Grissom Aeroplex gathering for a mini-reunion since learning that
“Old Reliable” was proudly flying again. I was fortunate to have John Walker
discover my existence a few years back and invite me to fly 803. John also
asked if I could recreate the nose cover painting since it was destroyed in
Vietnam. I gladly accepted the challenge, and John sent a nose cover to my
home in Olympia, Washington. I sent the nose cover back to John, which lead
up to this special gathering of Medevac crewmembers and friends to dedicate
my recreated painting of Donald Duck being placed back on “Old Reliable.”
What made this an extraordinary weekend was the
attendance of SP4 Trogdon’s six family members for the dedication. Then, as
a surprise to the family, they all were seated in “Old Reliable,” and I had
the honor and privilege to give them a flight; this was 49 years later,
after having painted the original artwork on 803. What a thrill for the
family and me to fly on the very helicopter their family member crewed.
Family members in attendance were Norman and Eddie Trogdon, Tomas and Amy
Wikman, and Alan and Sam Watson.
Larry Hatch “Mercy 11” flying 803
Trogdon’s memorial inside 803
MAJ Larry Hatch, US Army (Ret) and
Ronnie’s 87-year-old Brother Norman
Who would have ever thought this forty-nine-year saga would be reality?
Old Reliable certainly has come full circle.
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