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 boom and Derose.
 Boom 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.

DEROS Medevac mascot.Deros 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!


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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 that year.

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 # 63-08803 (803).

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.
“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"
Larry Hatch “Mercy 11” flying 803

Trogdon's Memorial
Trogdon’s memorial inside 803

Larry Hatch
MAJ Larry Hatch, US Army (Ret) and
Ronnie’s 87-year-old Brother Norman Trogdon

Who would have ever thought this forty-nine-year saga would be reality? Old Reliable certainly has come full circle.

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