A Dream Realized...
From childhood I had a burning desire to fly. My first flight was from a cow-pasture near Trenton, GA. My brother and I were strapped in a two seater bi-plane which wreaked of oil and gasoline smells. We stretched our necks to look over the fabric and tubular steel structure to view the tiny people moving around the city square of Trenton. A train caught my eye. How tiny it was as if it were but a toy.
That was a long time ago and after having flown as an aircrewman during WW II and a private and commercial rated pilot instructor rated one might say, "I had capped the stack" during two tours with the 170th AHC in the highlands of Viet Nam.
It is difficult to know what is a typical day as a pilot was in the green mountains of Viet Nam. Normally we arose about the break of day -- sometimes before, depending on the situation and the pressure which VC/NVA were putting on the AO.
There were the hum-drum days with "ash and trash" missions. However, all too many times the "ash and trash" mission became not so hum-drum when we were jolted in the realization of being under fire or the troops which we were supporting. Re-supply suddenly became an exacting exercise in offense or defense.
The term "ash and trash" is hard for me to reconcile in my own mind as to those "grunts" to whom it was directed -- it could mean virtually the difference in life or death as much so as ammunition for their weapons.
One day, southeast of Pleiku, I remember our crew was called in to supply water to troops high on a ridge line. That normally would be no serious problem. However, the ridge tops were covered with beautiful fluffy clouds -- solid to a distance down the hillside. The image which we were presented with on that day has diminished but little I travel through the cloudy tops of hills in the Tennessee Valley. I would hover into the low-lying cloud layer attempting to find clearance to get to these troops in need of water. To no avail!
I became increasingly frustrated as the voice of a trooper on the ground -- all but pleading saying, "I hear you. Come up the hill a little further -- just a bit closer -- fruitless as we could not maintain visual contact with the terrain. Yes, it was "ash and trash" but no one knows how valuable that "ash and trash" meant to those pleading voices!
There were days when when the exertion was so severe one wondered how long it would be before collapse became a reality. Got to go! Just one more run! And another one, and another one. How many? You lose count.
There were days when it was quiet. Drifting along a silver trail in the sky. A red haze hovered over the triple-canopy jungle. Peaceful, not a sound above the hum and whine of the engine and buzz of the tail-rotor accompanied with the "whap-whap" of that life saving disc overhead.
Blackest night I have ever seen from the Artic to the South Pacific. A company is under seige. "Dustoff," is the call. Wounded need to be extracted -- situation is critical!
No Dustoff available. It goes something like this.
West, near the "fence" Buccaneer gunships were in orbit about a spot to which we were directed. Our job was to descend into that black hole of triple-canopy and lift the wounded and survivors out.
No, there was no "straight-in" approach to the LZ. The true worth of the gunner and crew chief comes to the fore in such situations in the dark of night like this.
We came to a hover over the tree tops. Ever so gently we began to settle into the area of small opening in the trees, clipping limbs and leaves occasionally. Constant voice contact is critical as the gunner and crew chief guides the ship down, keep the tail rotor clear -- slide a little left -- slide a little right -- work stair-step fashion until you are signaled with a light you have arrived!
How are we gonna get out of here? Don't let it even enter your mind. We will do what we gotta do.
With two -- maybe three packs on board we began retracing our zig-zag path upward, laboriously -- slowly -- interminably -- we grunted, groaned, sweated until the black night welcomed us into its loving grasp -- out of the trees.
Too long ago to remember how many trips -- is it any wonder one has demons crawling through the inward folds of their minds???
How may trips -- no one remembers -- just until the job was done! O, how beautiful did the lights of Pleiku City and Camp Holloway look that night! God had blessed us to fulfill our job one more time!
Do what is necessary to secure the bird -- showers -- maybe -- just crumble into a bunk and sleep the sleep of the dead!
Tomorrow is another day in the life of the the Crew and their Bird.
Khomer "Chief" Beaty.
"Chief" passed away July 27, 2000 and now having me find the 170th Web site and taking on the Task of keeping the 170th Web Site functioning, I am sure he is watching over the 170th, our efforts, and all the members of the 170th. (Henry)
Visit this Memorium Link for "Chief" Chief Memorial Page