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281st AHC History ...

The following is a brief introduction of the 281st AHC History Section with links to other sites that have background information pertaining to missions or operations supported by the 281st AHC.  Many of the links are to other websites, some are sub-files of this website.  Some of the files are provided in Adobe Acrobat™ .pdf format and require the use of Acrobat Reader to view the files.  Acrobat Reader™ is available as a free download by following the link provided.

The 281st Assault Helicopter Company has a rich history and involvement in Special Forces Operations and Special Operations.  From the first UH-1A that was operational in-country until the day the colors were retired, the 281st AHC and its predecessor units were instrumental in the strategic reconnaissance mission that was the mainstay of the 5th Special Forces Group (ABN), Special Projects and Special Operations units.  It is considered by the U.S. Army Special Warfare Museum and its Historians to be the legacy unit for today's Special Operations Aviation units as it was the only Aviation unit that was attached to the 5th Special Forces Group (ABN) during the Vietnam War.  The Historical Chronology will show the events that helped shape and form the 281st AHC as well as the significant events, missions and operations the unit participated in during its time in the Republic of Vietnam.  The Chronology is in no way all inclusive of the missions and operations of the 281st AHC, but rather those that we have been able to document.  Contributions of documented actions are gratefully accepted and will be added to our files.

Some of the source material used to assemble the history of the 281st AHC was taken by permission from the CD, "Project Delta," Radix Press, Steve Sherman, Author.

Where were we in the scheme of things?
All non-divisional Army Aviation assets in Vietnam belonged to The First Aviation Brigade;
it was broken down to groups, battalions, and companies.


The 281st Assault Helicopter Company was first placed on the rolls of the Army on 6 October 1965.  The unit was activated on 7 October 1965 at Fort Benning, Georgia per General Order 318, Para 1, Third U. S. Army as the 281st Aviation Company (Airmobile Light).  It was comprised of a Headquarters element, a Service Platoon, a Transportation Detachment (483rd) and a Signal Detachment (499th).

The 483rd Transportation Detachment and the 499th Signal Detachment were attached to the 281st Aviation Company (AML) (-)  for purposes as stated by General Order 36, Para 2, 10th Aviation Group, dated 7 October 1965.

The 483rd Transportation Detachment was constituted on 6 October 1965 and activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on 7 October 1965 per General Order 318, Para 1.  The history of the 499th Signal Detachment dates back to 10 October 1944 when the unit was constituted in the United States Army as the 3499th Signal Service Detachment.  On 21 April 1945, the unit was redesignated as the 3499th Signal Equipment Installation Detachment.  On 6 October 1965, the unit was once again redesignated, this time as the 499th Signal Detachment and activated at Fort Benning, Georgia on 7 October 1965.

The 281st Aviation Company (AML) (-) was attached to the 44th Aviation Battalion primarily for training, POR qualification and preparation for overseas movement.  At this time, the unit was designated as the 281st Aviation Company (AML) (-), [NOTE: AML  is the abbreviation for Airmobile Light and the minus indicates the unit is minus some of its elements].  After the train-up the unit was deployed to the Republic of Vietnam and arrived at Nha Trang Bay, Republic of Vietnam on 9 June 1966.  The company set up its Headquarters adjacent to the the Nha Trang Airfield inside the 5th Special Forces Group (ABN) Special Forces Operating Base (SFOB) which became the company's location for the next four and a half years until its deactivation in early December 1970.

The 281st Aviation Company (AML) (-), with its two detachments, was assigned to the 1st Aviation Brigade by General Order 3765 on 9 June 1966.  It was further assigned to the 10th Combat Aviation Battalion under Operational Control (OPCON) of the 5th Special Forces Group (ABN).  Its mission was to provide administrative and tactical air movement and support of troops, supplies and equipment under direction of the Commanding Officer, 5th Special Forces Group (ABN).  See note below for definition of Operational Control

Since the 281st Aviation Company (AML) (-) had arrived in country minus the three flight platoons authorized by TOE, it absorbed the 2nd Platoon of the 171st Aviation Company.  The 2/171st had recently been constituted by combining the assets and mission of the 145th Aviation Platoon (Airlift) and the 6th Aviation Platoon (Armed).  The experienced pilots of the 2/171st Aviation Company were spread out within the three newly created flight platoons of the 281st Aviation Company (AML).  These experienced pilots acted as aircraft commanders (AC) and trained the inexperienced pilots in tactical flying in Vietnam.  The addition of the flight platoons configured the 281st as an Assault Helicopter Company, thus the new designation of 281st Assault Helicopter Company.

To execute the missions assigned by the CO, 5th SFG, the flight platoons were originally tasked as follows:

1st Flight Platoon (Lift)....................Support of the 5th SFG lettered companies, A and C Detachments

2nd Flight Platoon (Lift)............................................................................Support of Special Operations

3rd Flight Platoon (Armed).......................................................................Support of Special Operations

Over the next four years of operation, the missions of the Lift Platoons became intermixed.  The command relationship between 5th SFG and the 281st AHC changed and the unit began to provide administrative and tactical air support to other Major Commands (MACOM), Task Forces, Allied Commands and other ground units over the entire II Corps area as assigned by 10th Combat Aviation Battalion.  Likewise, the 3rd Platoon (Armed) broadened its mission scope to provide their renowned gun cover throughout II Corps.  The 483rd Transportation Detachment and the 499th Signal Detachment were inactivated and the assets and personnel were absorbed by the 281st.  During its operational life in Vietnam, the 281st became the first organized Special Operations Helicopter unit in the U.S. Army and, as a unit, was decorated for Valor and Meritorious Service by the United States Army, the United States Navy and the Republic of Vietnam.


Operational Control — Command authority that may be exercised by commanders at any echelon at or below the level of combatant command. Operational control is inherent in combatant command (command authority) and may be delegated within the command.  When forces are transferred between combatant commands, the command relationship the gaining commander will exercise (and the losing commander will relinquish) over these forces must be specified by the Secretary of Defense. Operational control is the authority to perform those functions of command over subordinate forces involving organizing and employing commands and forces, assigning tasks, designating objectives, and giving authoritative direction necessary to accomplish the mission. Operational control includes authoritative direction over all aspects of military operations and joint training necessary to accomplish missions assigned to the command. Operational control should be exercised through the commanders of subordinate organizations. Normally this authority is exercised through subordinate joint force commanders and Service and/or functional component commanders. Operational control normally provides full authority to organize commands and forces and to employ those forces as the commander in operational control considers necessary to accomplish assigned missions; it does not, in and of itself, include authoritative direction for logistics or matters of administration, discipline, internal organization, or unit training.

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