One of the most important lessons
that I learned in Vietnam was that you
sure couldn't tell a person's real worth just by looking at him.
War made the rules and the rules say you are judged on your ability and
not your looks. More often than not, it is the quiet guy in the corner
that is the real hero or worker of the group. The people that got
things done were the ones not bothered by maintaining an image. Vietnam
was a young man's war and Joe average excelled.
We got a call one day that a full bird Colonel was in and needed 2 ships for a tour of the Dalat outposts that Maj. Casey went to on a routine basis. Because a rather large assault was scheduled for that day all the good ships were being used so both of the dog ships were assigned to the Colonel. I was put in charge of the flight and at the appropriate time both ships hovered up to the pickup pad at the end of the runway next to headquarters.
Maj. Casey was there to brief us after we shut down. He was somewhat disappointed when he saw both the dog ships hover up because he knew each ship would have one additional passenger which meant several of the tighter outpost would have to be scratched from the list and the Colonel would not like that. He was glad though to see that he was given myself and the other high-time dog ship AC for the mission. Maj. Casey briefed us, then we proceeded to the gathering of officers that were now around the Colonel.
At a lull in the gathering Maj. Casey introduced us to the Colonel and told him that we were the ACs that would be flying him around that day. The Colonel gave us a quick scan and said "Oh no they aren't". He wanted "mature" pilots flying him around and these 2 kids standing in front of him would not do. Now this tore up Maj. Casey for he knew this was no piece-of-cake mission. I felt insulted and though I and the other AC were indeed young looking we both were war tested and proven pilots.
Maj. Casey tried again to tell the Colonel that these were indeed the pilots he needed for the mission and that he flew with us often and highly recommended both of us. The Colonel would have nothing to do with it so off we went, down to the OPS tent to inform the OPS. Officer. Maj. Casey had a look on his face like a little boy that had just lost his dog. I did feel sorry for him.
At the OPS. tent I told the OPS. Officer what had happened and he about blew a gasket. The only pilots left in the whole place that happened to be older than us were the two pilots that refused all responsibility and had let it be known that they would be more than happy to sit out the war until their rotation date. Both of them were very vocal about that and did sit out most of the war. Both were well past the normal date most PPs become ACs and so were only used on the simplest of missions and only as a last resort. Neither were ACs but both were sometimes placed as pilot-in-command that sort of fooled them. As I understood, they were so-so PPs but neither was close to being AC quality. And so the Colonel got his "mature" pilots and I went back to my tent for a nap and a very rare day off.
A day or so later I saw Maj. Casey and commented that I was glad to see he was still alive. He said he was alive because those other guys either couldn't find the outpost or flatly refused to go into them. I told him that was what I figured would happen. He then said something to the effect that the Colonel was really pissed but that he did get in one I-told-you-so.
I believe Maj. Casey learned one of life's lessons that day concerning arrogance. There is a reason the natives do what the natives do and sometimes its best to let the natives do what they do because there is a damn good reason why they do it that way. I believe Maj. Casey had a wee bit more respect for me after that mission.
The mission would have been a fine training mission for the 2 PPs that were ready to become ACs. Instead they just flew circles in the air. We could have gotten into most of those outpost with two ships, one at a time though. I guess I could have gone back and replaced the lead ship's PP. That way the Colonel would still have his "mature" pilot in the left seat though I would still have been in charge of things chopper wise. I didn't though because a day off was a rare thing indeed and arrogance needed to reap it's own rewards.