The Birddog, the Caribou, AND-----AN ELK?
BY: Jack Serig, Sr.
The 1993 annual reunion's location in Colorado Springs
brought back nearly forgotten memories of nearby Ft. Carson, where my family
and I were stationed in the `63-65 era. It was during this tour that an event
occurred involving a 0-1 Birddog, a CV-2 Caribou, both are U.S. Army aircraft,
and AN ELK [The animal type].
One Saturday afternoon, mid-December, a cool, crisp and
clear day, while relaxing at home with family, a phone call from an excited
0-1 crewchief broke the relative monotony of normal family routine.
The crewchief had completed minor maintenance on an O-1 that had to be made
ready for the battalion commander for a Sunday flight. The crewchief was
unable to get into the parachute room as the sergeant with the keys was off
for the weekend and could not be located. The kid was pretty excited
because a test flight had to be made before the birddog could be released
that afternoon. A parachute was needed for the test pilot, right away,
and for the battalion commander's use the next day.
I suggested to the crewman that he check all aircraft
on the flight line and if a 'chute was available in any one of them, that
he transfer the 'chute to the 0-1. He was to call me back with a report,
soonest. Within the hour the phone rang. When I answered I could tell
the kid was real troubled. "I did what you told me, sir. There's
a transient Caribou on the flight line. It was the only aircraft with
parachutes and I broke the side entrance door to the ship getting in."
"Stay there and stay calm", I advised. The line chief sergeant was
my next call. He was alerted to what had happened and agreed to go
to the airfield, assess the matter, and call me back.
A short time later the sergeant called back telling me
there was no way the Caribou's door could be fixed with his limited resources.
I thanked him and suggested that he return to his family thinking that I
would handle the matter directly with the Caribou's pilots. But I couldn't
locate any of the crewmembers.
That night we had a aviation Christmas party at the club.
Low and behold, the guests of one of our locally assigned pilots were two
pilots from Ft. Benning, who had flown the Caribou to Ft. Carson. After
exchanging pleasantries with them I took the pilot-in-command aside, advised
him of what had happened to the Caribou's door, and why. He politely
shrugged it off as not being a problem and thanked me for advising him. One
heck of a good party ensued and I went home forgetting the incident. Sunday,
the battalion commander took his Birddog flight using the Caribou's parachute.
When the flight was over the crew chief returned the 'chute to the Caribou
through the entrance he had surreptitiously created.
Monday morning, a few minutes after entering my office,
the phone rang. The airfield commander, Major Miller, an old salt who
also flew the Division Commander's U-8, asked me to report to his office.
When I reported he advised me that he had received a phone call at 5:30 AM,
that morning, arousing him from a good sleep. The Caribou pilot was
very angry that the side entrance door to his Caribou was broken, that it
couldn't be fixed, but their schedule required that they had to take off
anyway and fly back to Ft. Benning at a relatively low altitude to keep from
freezing the crew. What did I know about it? I told him all that had
transpired; well, almost all. He advised me that the battalion commander
was aware of the incident and had appointed him as the `informal' investigating
officer. When he completed his investigation he would be back in touch.
I advised him that I accepted full responsibility, that the crew chief was
only trying to do his job in getting the O-1 readied for the battalion commander's
flight on Sunday. It was my foul-up.
Several days latter Major Miller called me to his office
advising me that he had met with the battalion commander. I was to
receive a letter of reprimand that would remain in my 20l file, for one year.
If I kept my nose clean for the ensuing year the letter would be removed.
The title of this story includes [AN ELK?]. The
Birddog and Caribou have been mentioned, but what about THE ELK? That's
the secret I hopefully kept from the investigating officer and from the battalion
commander. And to this point of the story I have kept the secret from
you. You see, only the crew chief and I knew that three Caribou pilots'
careers were in potential, serious jeopardy. Three pilots? Remember, earlier
in the story I had met two pilots at the club's aviation Christmas party.
Well, two had flown the Caribou from Benning to Carson. My crew chief
had observed the third pilot, on Sunday, drive up the Caribou ramp in his
personal car with a large elk strapped to the top. Pilot number three
had been on a hunting trip, shot his elk, and had arranged for his buddies
to pick him up at Carson, in the Caribou, to save the long drive back to
Benning and to preserve the elk. That unit must have had one heck of
a elk barbecue.
The crew chief was furious when he found out I was receiving
a letter of reprimand. He wanted to report what he knew about THE ELK.
If he talked I could envision Article 15's or court-martials for the three
Caribou pilots. In counseling him, I advised that my one temporary
letter of reprimand wasn't worth taking the chance of ruining the careers
and lives of three probably good officers. One year later the letter of reprimand
was removed from my file. We had kept our secret.
If any of the Caribou crewmembers from that ELK flight
read this story I'd be interested in knowing who they are and how their Army
careers turned out. This story will not end until I know, maybe even in ELK
heaven.....or ELK hell.
This article was published
in the LOGBOOK, a tri-annual publication of the Army Otter-Caribou Association,
November, 1993 edition.