War Stories 8
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Ever Eaten K-rations
(sometimes called LRRPs)?
By Baby Huey
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.
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. Seems 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 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 LRRP team (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) 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 a LRRP team that had set up a night
ambush for the bad guys. Well, in discussing just who owned a certain trail,
some bad guys stopped breathing but we also had a couple of wounded LRRPs.
We fly out, hoist them up to the aircraft and the GIBs (Guys In the Back)
stripped the LRRP of his K-rations. The coveted meal was chilli con carny.
We get back to the hooch about 2200 and our crewchief (he out-ranked the
whole crew when it came to chilli con carny) starts up how he invented the
perfect cooking technique for chilli con carny K-rations. Seems if you just
add hot water to the pouch, the rice would 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 to the pouch, hot water was added and
PRESTO perfect eats.
Off goes the crewchief 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 crewchief
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 crewchief out the cargo door and letting him chatty mouth fall
1500 feet into the jungle.
Upon entering the hooch we hear a blood-curdling scream from the
crewchief. 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 Calvary 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 once again pay tribute
to a beloved and reliable old friend, UH-1 Helicopter # 63-08803 (803).
John Walker accidently discovered 803 deteriorating alongside a remote
hangar and became her proud owner in 2005; she was restored to flight status
by July 2009 and was added to a growing fleet of restored Vietnam-era Huey
“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 had been 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”
made this a very special 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 art
work on 803. What a thrill for both me and the family 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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