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.