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To The Guys In The Back

The Chinook needed five people to fly it in Vietnam. Two in the front and
three in the back. It was not safe without all five. Picture hovering
down into a hover hole 100 feet deep with the rotor blades just nipping the
jungle all around. These rotor blades, by the way, were 100 feet tip to
tip with the back rotor disk out of sight of the pilots and 60 feet behind
them. "Three feet to the right - five feet forward - down 40 feet - load
hooked, up 20 feet - load's clear - clear right - clear left" -- commands
like this repeated thousands of times with the guys in the back flying the
Chinook with verbal commands. "CPT Roush, the load is swinging left and
right about 30 feet, suggest you slow down. OK chief, here's 50 knots.
That's better sir, looks like it might stop soon. OK chief, the grunts
want this load on that truck straight ahead, right gunner watch that
antennae at 3 o clock, left gunner permission to fire if we get shot at
from that tree line at 9 o clock. Everybody ready? Yes, sir. Hook hot."

"RECEIVING FIRE, 9 o clock!! Going around! Breaking right! Anybody hit?
No sir, but I can see day light through some new holes in the left side.
Want to land and check it out chief? No leaks sir, so it can wait until we
get back to Cu Chi. OK, we'll see if we can get that gunship to fly
between us and the tree line and try again. Mustang 5 this is Muleskinner
019, need protection for our left flank. Roger that Muleskinner, we are
coming up on your left now, we will put some mini gun in the tree line."

"OK guys, same drill except we are coming in faster this time - you ready
chief? Yes, sir - still want it on the truck. Sure, I need the practice."

And so it goes. Six, ten, twelve hours then back to the North Forty for
some needed rest. Not for the guys in the back, though. They stay with
the ship to patch the holes and perform the necessary maintenance to be
sure their Chinook is ready to go at daylight the next morning. Also there
is guard duty and many other things to do.

( Allen )
In all of my nearly 1,000 flight hours in Vietnam, I never heard any of the
guys in the back complain. They were always ready and willing to put their
lives in the hands of the guys in the front. We never really talked about
the incredible things we did like spotting generators next to antennas on
top of Nui Ba Dien with winds gusting to 40 knots, or water trailers next
to mess tents, or ammunition next to 105 Howitzers at night during tactical
emergencies, or taking hot meals to the grunts for Thanksgiving and
Christmas, or picking up 50 grunts in a drenching rain allowing them to
track mud all over the freshly washed floor, or rolling leaking 55 gallon
drums of tear gas out the back. None of these things could have been done
without all five crew members. Whether they were flight engineers, crew
chiefs or gunners, all of the guys in the back had our respect and our
appreciation for giving us a bird that would fly and thousands of safe
landings and takeoffs carrying everything from chickens and eels to women
and children to ARVN and grunts to water and food to guns and bullets.

The guys in the back did their job with incredible accuracy and
professionalism under very difficult and frequently dangerous circumstances
without complaint and without much recognition. No thanks were expected
and not generally received.

Today, the only regret I have about my year in Vietnam is that I did not
always take the time or opportunity to say thank you to the guys in the
back for getting us all back safely. I want to begin making up for that by
saying to Muleskinner George Scott Doster and all of the other guys in the
back - thank you for a job well done and thank you for serving our country
in the Vietnam War!

Aim high Muleskinner

pilot: Gary Roush
242 ASHC, Muleskinners,
May 68 - May 69, Cu Chi,
Republic of South Vietnam

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