REUNION 2016 AFTER ACTION REPORT
I rented a car from Hertz, loaded up the posters, CD player for the ladies event, all my stuff and left at 0900 Monday morning the 3rd of October. Yahoo trip route said it was 1089 miles, at 66 miles per hour it would take me 16.35 hours to get to the Doubletree in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I left Waterloo, Iowa heading east, through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia then into North Carolina, arriving at the Doubletree around 1230 hours on the 4th.
By now I had been informed that our master of ceremonies Joe Bilitzke was not going to be there because of health reasons. Also, Brian and Marilyn Paine were on the way but decided to turn around and head back home to Texas because of the storm. Jack Mayhew then sent me a message that he was not coming because of the weather. I was watching the weather channel on TV. I was hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I talked to Dianna at the Doubletree later on Wednesday making sure everything was in place. I also asked her if the hotel was ready if the storm came this way. She said "yes," She said that if push came to shove they had stand-by generators. I took that as they were ready if the lights went out. I believe we had asked that question before about stand-by generators.
Still watching the weather channel, it was anybody's guess as what the storm would do, would it go farther inland, stay along the eastern coastline or out into the sea. A few 281st members were arriving, only a couple of cancellations. It was still a go Wednesday night I went to bed around 2300 hours still watching the weather channel.
Thursday morning South Carolina declared a state of emergency and was evacuating the coastal area of that state, then North Carolina did the same. Now, what? We all continued with set-up preparations; walk through at Fort Bragg, EB meeting, helping Jay set up the PX area. Folks were starting to sign in at the registration desk; Ed Haas was getting the hospitality room ready. Still, only a few of our members had cancelled their rooms. Everything was going smoothly we were hard at it, the 281st reunion was going to happen, no matter what the weather. At around 1900 hours Walt Pikul and I made a last minute recon of the Big Apple and the K S restaurants, they were ready for us for Friday lunch.
Friday morning as planned the five buses showed up right on time at 0800, we were all on board and left the hotel at 0846. Each bus was full; the bus that was going to view the army aircraft was full. We were in great shape and right on time. The ceremony was held inside because of the weather. It went very well; Jim Baker made us all proud. Then back on the buses, one bus to the hanger, two buses to the Big Apple the other two to the K&S.
After lunch we were on the way to the Special Ops Museum downtown the folks there were waiting for us; we were welcomed with the greatest respect; what a beautiful place. The bus company had furnished us the best drivers, each was very courteous, friendly, and all five were very professional drivers. Jay Hays presented each driver with a golden helicopter pin; you should have seen the smiles on each of their faces.
Friday evening Jeff Murray, as usual, was in his element with being the master of ceremony. Denny Crow gave the invocation and then we enjoyed a wonderful buffet meal. The food was delicious and was very well prepared, 269 people were served.
Lou Lerda started us off with building the foundation starting with the 6th & the 145 ALP's. Then our friend Tom Ross unveiled the first poster of the movie "The Rescue." We were the first to view it. The movie will feature the markings of the 281 on each helicopter used in the making of the movie. Tom Ross has always been a true friend of the 281st. Next was our very own former warrant officer, now a two-star Navy admiral, Admiral John Edward "Ed" Boyington. He talked about fifteen minutes about his time as an Intruder. What an honor it was to have him and his beautiful wife Sue with us....this is his first reunion, but he told me later it will not be his last. The evening ended with Jim "Mom" Torbert as he dismissed us with a prayer.
Outside it was now windy with rain.
Saturday morning the wind was really blowing, and the rain was coming down pretty heavy, lots of folks were having breakfast in the hotel, the scholarship committee was meeting in the restaurant, the ladies were gathering for a fun time, we were getting ready for our annual membership meeting. We had a busy morning. Later lunch was served in the hospitality room, Ed Haas did an excellent job with getting all the food and drinks, he was one busy man.....and even more busy as the afternoon continued. Some folks were sitting in the hallway enjoying their lunch when all at once they discovered water running down the hallway. This was the start of what we were in for. The water continued down the hallway into the banquet room; the carpet was soaked....it got worse as the evening continued. The weather outside was very stormy.
For me, the memorial service is the highlight of this whole event. It was decided that we should now do as much as we could to keep this event going. The storm was a bearing down on Fayetteville. We had no idea what the evening would bring, as we were getting set up for this event .....the lights went out, but it did not stop us from carrying on. With flashlights, we continued, Mom Torbert and Jim Baker made it happen. These men of the 281st stepped up to the plate. I would follow them anywhere.
After the memorial service, I checked with the front desk and was informed that they had standby generators and service would be back online in a short time. Later I was informed that the generators had failed and that a service person was on the way to make the repairs. The entire hotel was dark. There was no book signing; the room was completely dark. There was no food, some of the card keys for the rooms did not work, and most of the cell phones were not working. The evening continued, the food was ready to be prepared if the electricity came own, if the electricity did not we would go to bed hungry. We waited. During the evening I checked with the front desk hoping for some positive news. There were none.
Somehow, someway, Rae the food service supervisor told me that she would make sure we had SOMETHING to eat. She came through with her promise. Now the area was completely dark. We all made our way slowly down the dark hallways to our dark....very dark rooms. Those with children, wheelchairs, and others with medical situations had, even more problems. For the life of me, I do not know how they managed.
Sunday morning, still no electricity, no phone service, and no food. Water was over the interstate both north and south; roads were closed throughout the city. Again, now what? Flights were cancelled and just getting to the airport might be impossible. Folks were getting ready to leave, but could they? Later there was coffee, one pot only lasted a few minutes, we were told that there would be some kind of breakfast served. I do not know if this happened or not. [ it did. ] The storm had passed, the sun was shining, people were leaving and hoping that they could get out of Fayetteville without getting stranded out on the road. They had to hurry even though the storm had passed the water was still rising. We all had to hurry.
Most of us left after we knew that everyone was okay. Some had to wait for their flight, others waited to be sure they could drive around the flooded roads, Interstate 95 was flooded both north and south bound. Everyone were talking, smiling, laughing and I noticed our members were even taking care of other people not our own. One lady told me that a couple with 281st name tags helped her to her room and made sure she was okay. People helping each other, my goodness, my goodness. What a wonderful group of people you are.
Everyone really looked out after everyone else, whether it was helping each other up and down dark stairwells with luggage or ensuring everyone had something to eat. Truly it was a great experience to observe what a family we have in the Intruder Association.
Two days later I made it back home. What a trip, what an event. We won’t ever forget the 281st Assault Helicopter Company
Association 2016 reunion.
During this entire event I never heard one complaint, not even one. I am overwhelmed with this family of Intruders......so pleased with you all. I am proud to be one of you.
I am in the process of appointing a three man committee to look into all this on behalf of our members and the 281st AHC association. I will keep you posted.
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The hangar tour
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The Special Opns Museum presents the Retired Vietnam Veteran Award.
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at the memorial dedication ceremony, presenting Jack Mayhew's speech.
Hurricane Matthew kept Jack to busy to attend.
"General Evans, members of the
Intruder family, and honored guests:
This is a happy day and a sad day for the intruder family. Happy that we could bring together so many former
Intruders and their families to share in this event and sad that we can not share this moment with the
forty-two Intruders who were kia and the ten that are still unaccounted for. When the war ended, the 1st aviation brigade, the parent unit of all non-divisional aviation units in vietnam, listed
one hundred of its members as missing in action. Ten percent of them were from one unit, the 281st.
Also on a sad note, I should not be standing here. The honor of making this presentation belonged to
Colonel Bob Mitchell, who over the years, researched and published the history of the units that made up the 281st. It was his work and leadership that brought us to this day. Bob left us a few months ago and we miss him every day. However, we are pleased and honored to have ten members of his family with us today. We also owe a debt of thanks to
Jim Baker and Walt Pikul for doing the heavy lifting on this project. Walt is one of your local cpa’s and has worked on this project for the past three years. Walt, we are indebted to you and your staff and you, sir, are the epitome of boots on the ground.
We have with us today intruders who represent those who performed every job in the units that made up the 281st. Our attendees include several individuals who served in the first helicopter units attached to the 5th group, the 145th and the 6th aviation platoons who paved the way for the 281st, and together they were responsible for developing the can do attitude that was handed down when the 281st arrived in country; among those with us from the 145th and 6th platoons is former
PFC Duane Vincent who was one of the first crew chiefs in-country and the first individual to be wounded and medically evacuated. Also with us is
LTC Bill Griffin who was the first in-country commander of the 281st. Bill played a key role in insuring that the high standards set by the 145th & 6th
Platoons were continued throughout the war. Joining COL Griffin are LTC’s George
Little and Daryl Stevens who were also former commanders of ther 281st. We are honored to have with us a former gun ship pilot who completed his tour in vietnam with our wolf pack and joined the
Navy. In the navy our WO1 Ed
Boyington rose to the rank of admiral in naval aviation. Welcome home,
When all of this started none of these chaps had any idea of what they were getting into. The use of helicopters in special operations was new to army aviation as well as to the crews and the folks planning and conducting the missions. No one was trained for this job and it was on the job training for everyone involved; which, i am pleased to report resulted in the development of a very special army helicopter company that we are all proud to have served in.
Much has been said and written about the bravery of helicopter pilots in the
Vietnam War and over the years the 281st had a considerable number of outstanding aviators. However, if you ask any of them today what their success was based on they will tell you that mission success in helicopter special operations depended on each crew member doing his job and everyone working together. The 281st flight and ground crews did this extremely well and of equal importance, they took new
Intruders under their wings and passed on the knowledge and tactics that they had gained and developed in performing these challenging missions. Many of the men who served as intruders
developed and maintained life long friendships based on mutual respect for each other.
Warrant Officer Bob George was awarded the Silver Star he presented the certificate to crew chief
Jim “Beatle” Bailey with these words written on it: “Jimmy: half of this is yours. I wish we could split it. If you did not make 520 fly the way she did,
I would never have lived to write this and seven others would also be dead if it weren't for you and your special efforts. My thanks to you. You were the best crew chief
I ever had the honor to serve and fly with”; signed
Robert L. George. Bob left us a few years ago but Mrs. George and Beatle
Bailey are with us today. In the 281st we had a special group of folks known as door gunners who, along with the
Wolf Pack gunners of the Aerial Weapons Platoon were responsible for keeping us and the men on the ground safe. Many of us owe our lives to the skill and bravery of these intruders.
I am pleased to tell you how proud we are of all the intruders who served as members of our flight crews, and of our support and maintenance teams lead by men like
CSM Bob Ohmes, whose widow Bonnie and family members are with us today. These highly skilled and dedicated young men achieved and maintained one of the highest availability rates and had the lowest number of in-flight system failures of any
Helicopter company in vietnam. Backing them up were the attached 483rd maintenance detachment and the 499th signal detachment who provided outstanding on site support.
The 281st was OPCON to the 5th Special Forces Group and supported all of its units. However, it was with the
Recondo School and Project Delta that the unit developed and maintained special relationships. With the
Recondo School new 281st crew members were able to get hands-on training in the techniques and equipment that were developed in
Vietnam for Special Operations. Recondo school missions were not easy! As it was known to be the deadliest school in the army as most of their instruction was hands on and conducted in areas frequently occupied by the
North Vietnamese Army.
It was with the men of Project Delta, the long range resonance unit of the 5th group, that the 281st developed strong bonds. The 281st and its supporting elements moved and lived under remote jungle conditions with project delta, ready at moments notice to respond to the needs of a recon team, the
Road Runners, the Nungs, or the attached Vietnamese Rangers.
The can do, will do, Intruders that served in the 281st from 1965 until 1970 were a proud group of young men who for the most part were fresh out of flight or maintenance school. Many of them had yet to celebrate their 20th birthdays; several had id cards marked minor which meant that we older folks had to buy the beer.
It was these young men, functioning as a team that took on the task of inserting recon teams into
LZ’s smaller than the helicopter and recovering them under fire; inserting units of the attached
Vietnamese Rangers and supporting them with aerial fire power and resupply while the crew chiefs, door gunners and support folks worked around the clock to keep the helicopters flying.
There is no doubt that the young men of the 281st performed one of the most demanding and dangerous missions of the war and this dedication ceremony recognizes and honors their contributions to the
U.S. Army’s first special operations helicopter company. General
Evans for this, we thank you and yoiur staff. We especially thank
our family members for the support they have given us over the years and we thank and congratulate each
Intruder for a job well done."
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We can't leave Tom Ross without bragging on his book and the upcoming film production of the episode concerning the 5th SFG and 281st rescue of all the occupants of a Montangard village oprressed by the enemy. Our recent book also describes this rescue. Our book can be purchsed thru this website; Tom's book is on Amazon.
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I want to thank everyone who put on the reunion. Lots of work and money (time) involved.
A special thanks to the anonymous members who paid for the busses on Friday to transport all of us. It really made things go easily and was a great way for all of us to stay together.
All we really missed was the Sat nite banquet. Friday went great with the tours and the buffet and we had the membership meeting on Sat while the women had their event (which Penni really liked). We were all together on Sat even after loss of power, and even had the comradeship of adapting and adjusting to the power inconvenience.
- - Dean Roesner
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Joan and I want to thank you and all the reunion committee for a wonderful reunion.
Gen Evans and to Special Ops people done a perfect job supporting us in the Memorial Program. Even with the inconvenience of the weather it was perfect. One of the benefits we received was the friends we made, renewed friends, the fellowship and love we had, we could't ask for much more.
The hotel done an awsome job considering. The food was great, the service was above reproach, even with Saturday nite issues. We were one of the last to leave on Tuesday, because we got cancelled by Delta on Sunday. We checked out on Sunday, but the hotel gave us our room back. They moved every one on the first floor. They took care of every one there before letting new customers in. They made the shuttle availabe to us as needed. They couln't provide food because they had no hot water to clean the kitchen and probably other issues, They charges me the same rate as the reunion rate. I couldn't ask for much more. They were as good as could be expected.
Thank you again for a near perfect time. God Bless everyone until me meet again in DC.
Darryl M Steven Ltc Ret
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from a fellow Hurricane Matthew refugee, ...
Happy to report that Jack Mayhew finally convinced me to appear for my first reunion. Gaining permanent leave status two weeks prior to the event removed all excuses. Jack is to be congratulated for his leadership of our association and for tolerating me so long ago.
I took a hundred or photos, much to the annoyance of a few, I'm sure. A couple of them here and two from my wife's iPhone.
A few of us departed Sunday morning by auto. Congrats to the hotel kitchen for producing a marvelous breakfast under trying circumstances. After trying the highways to get away, I wonder how the kitchen staff even came to work that morning. We went south thru the confusing Lumberton detour. Now, really, who builds interstate bridges lower than the bridge through old downtown? We didn't find electricity and therefore gas pumps and restrooms until Wadesboro, almost to Charlotte. The river rose behind us; if you didn't drive out Sunday morning, you waited.
I am absolutely thrilled at Tom Ross's announcement of the film production. It's a story needs to be told to the younger generation, too many of whom don't understand the world.
I'll have to come back; Jack has promised me a beer.
- - Brent Gourley
The 281st Assault Helicopter Company Association announces its 2016 Annual Reunion to be held in Fayetteville, North Carolina!
On Friday morning at Ft. Bragg, there will be the dedication ceremony of the plaque recognizing the 281st AHC as the U.S. Army’s first special operations helicopter company. The plaque is dedicated to all those who served in the 281st regardless of rank or job description.
Bus transportation to and from the hotel and Ft. Bragg will be provided. Later Friday we have planned a fun filled evening with a buffet style dinner. Our Saturday evening awards banquet is always the highlight of the weekend.
Don't forget the "Hospitality Room" that will be fully stocked with beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and providing lunches and late night socializing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We also have something special planned for the ladies on Saturday morning.
All of this is covered by your registration fee, $125 per person.
The Doubletree Hotel has guaranteed us a special 281st room rate of $99 per night which includes a free breakfast for two people per room, every day you stay there. They will also provide shuttle service to and from the airport at no additional cost.
Let's not forget the real reason why we have these reunions
- we see our brothers in arms that we haven't seen in decades and renew friendships we've built up over the years. It was 51 years ago that the 281st was organized; then sent to Vietnam.
Five years later the company was deactivated. In that 5-year plus period of time, hundreds of us spent many months doing many different jobs; each and every one of them contributing to the success of the 281st. Celebrate that this year.
In the last few years we've seen quite a few reunion "first timers". If you've never been to a reunion, this is a great time to start.
From Newsletter #59:
"Those of us in the Tar Heel State are excited to have the 2016 reunion in North Carolina. Everyone on the EB is looking forward to this special
reunion where the 281st is again recognized for our contribution to special operations. I always felt it an honor to be associated with the finest soldiers in the
world, the members of Detachment B-52, Project Delta, 5th SFG. The ceremony at Fort Bragg on Friday October 7th, 2016 will again memorialize the relationship between the 281st and Project Delta.
Start planning now for the reunion you cannot miss. I find that reunions go by so quickly that I don't accomplish everything on my checklist. Well, one thing you must make time for is a trip to the Airborne and Special Ops Museum in downtown Fayetteville.
It is a magnificent museum housed in one of the most architecturally beautiful structures
you could imagine. As you approach the facility, to your left you will see the memorial stone of the 281st, sitting there among the most celebrated military units in our country's history. It is humbling.
This wonderful military museum is located only 10-15 minutes from our reunion hotel.
... Don't miss the opportunity to participate in this
From Newsletter 59 by Bain Black