"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Gunner/Crew Chief, Thomas Chase

Thomas Chase
Having read the blog yesterday on Jim Schertz's upcoming sojourn and background, I can very much equate with Jim.

Having the same MOS - 67N20 - as a door gunner and then becoming a crew chief myself on Hueys, air crewmen have had a special bond ever since.

The scenario where being assigned to one bird (Huey) as stated was usually the case, as well, as with the aviation company I was assigned to when in country in 69-70.

Pilots may have changed, but usually the enlisted flight crew of two, the Gunner and Gunner/Crew Chief, remained the same. That was due to the fact that we were always accountable for pulling the daily inspections, both Pre and Post Flight, as well as the periodic maintenance on our "birds" we were assigned to. We knew our birds as well as we knew the idiosyncrasies they exhibited.

In line with the scenario that went down with Jim, we also had a crew re-assigned to another Huey when theirs was in for Depot Maintenance. That usually did not happen, as normally the crew members stayed with the bird during the depot maintenance, as well. 

However, there was a significant CA planned for the area around Firebase Ripcord and R&R had deleted the number of our available flight crews. So the two crewmen whose bird was in Depot Maintenance got assigned by the Flight Platoon C.O. to the bird of two aircrew personnel who were on R&R in order to have another Huey partake in the CA.

They were hovering as troops repelled down into the jungle drop zone when an RPG was fired and their ship exploded and fell into the jungle below. It was a hot LZ and it was two days before the remains of the four aircrew members and other KIA's were able to be extracted out.

The two crewmen returning later from R&R were reassigned the Huey of the two men that had died on that mission. They did not want it, but they had no choice.

Needless to say, NEVER after that were any of the aircrew "transferred" to any other ship and they remained ALWAYS assigned to their Bird by the Commanding Officer.

I am sure that there were many other similar events of irony in various places throughout that war, and in many of the preceding wars as well. Many events like that absolutely contribute to the Survivor Guilt complex.

Best wishes to you, Jim, on your "reconciliation" at "The Wall" next month.

Thomas Chase
a fellow Gunner/Crew Chief

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

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