REMEMBERING THAT NOISE AND THOSE VIBRATIONS
Preflight completed, checklist followed IP on the controls and with that noise and those vibrations actually up and into the air for the first time. Now to get at those controls! The cyclic changed the attitude of the aircraft as it should but a great deal more. The collective and pedals had coordination problems. The throttle controlled the RPM fine until it went into over-ride! Finally just when some coordination was acquired over the controls the throttle was rolled off and the engine failures started. Training continued with autorotations, solo with a toss into the Holiday Inn pool; autorotations, confined areas, autorotations, cross country, autorotations and with that noise and those vibrations initial training completed and on to Fort Rucker.
Fear, exhilaration, and excitement filled the mind as the Huey shuddered into the air. That noise and those vibrations were heard and felt but all concentration was on the power setting, airspeed, altitude, and that little ball in the turn and slip indicator. Transition, cross country, field training, E and E, tail rotor and hydraulic failures, autorotations, and autorotations and autorotations. Training progressed and the cyclic, the collective and the pedals ceased being tools controlling flight but became actual extensions of the arms, the hands and the legs of the student along with that noise and those vibrations no longer foreign but a part of the being of the pilot.
Confidence, surety and alertness in the minds of all the crew as they felt the last cool air through the doors and windows as the Stallion was maneuvered into the pickup zone ready for the loading of combat troops. Each crewmember performed the requirements of his station in concert with that noise and those vibrations as members of the combat assault team. The mission briefing, troops loaded, the take-off in precise formation, coordination with command and control, covering fire by the Sidekicks, now full combat mode. The 92nd Assault Helicopter Company; slicks, gunships, pilots, crew chiefs and door gunners working together with that noise and those vibrations.
Confidence, sharpness, and vigilance fill the minds of the Sidekick crews as they carefully nurse that noise and those vibrations of the overloaded Charlie models into the air. After contact with command and control, a recon of the LZ, advising lead Stallion of the LZ size, the wind and the approach and departure directions the prep begins. Another change in that noise and those vibrations as the rockets, miniguns, crew chief and door gunner all provide live protection in and all around the LZ as the Stallions approach, unload and depart. Live fire escort provided, the Sidekicks rearm and refuel and remain on call for enemy contact.
Fear and exhilaration tampered by anticipation filled their minds as the Stallion shuddered into the air. That noise and those vibrations hardly noticed as all concentration was on the immediate mission, the rifle clutched in one hand, the other hand clutching the floor ring, the steel pot and the rucksack, the orders that had been given and the combat assault to be completed with the Stallions and Sidekicks, members of the 92nd Assault Helicopter Company, putting soldiers into combat, providing close fire support, resupply, reinforcements, and evacuation when needed accompanied by that noise and those vibrations.
Increasing fear, increasing exhilaration and anticipation accompanied by determination raced through the minds as changes in that noise and those vibrations are heard and felt as the Stallion initiates a descent. Out of the doors, a vision of only jungle canopy with no sign of a landing zone but then a Sidekick appears alongside the Stallion firing rockets with a steady stream of tracers from miniguns, crew chief and door gunner. Another change in that noise and those vibrations as the Stallion flares and quickly touches down. Out of the doors to combat but with the knowledge that the 92nd can be called on to come back.
Concentration, concentration, concentration by all the crewmembers while at a high hover with troops rappelling out of the side of the Stallion. Attention on keeping the aircraft stationary, attention on the power settings and wind conditions, attention to the changes in CG and attention to that noise and those vibrations. Crew chief and door gunner coordinating and watching the egress of the rappelers and their travel all the way to the ground while watching and alert for any sign of enemy activity. With Sidekicks flying cover, US Infantry, Airborne, Special Forces, Aussies, Koreans, ARVNs all depend on that noise and those vibrations to fight and to return.
Watchfulness, fear, and caution fill the minds as the Stallion drops into the hot LZ for an emergency extraction. Concentration on the power settings and on that noise and those vibrations while maintaining a single skid contact on the sloping ground. The crew chief and the door gunner out of their seats coordinating and helping load the ground troops. Soldiers helping wounded soldiers, armament, captured weapons and themselves into the aircraft. Take off with a heavy load and with the Sidekicks providing full extraction coverage. Multiple sorties and the extractions are completed with that noise and those vibrations.
Watching and listening to como and to that noise and those vibrations of the aircraft itself yet with some complacency and a little boredom and distaste: ash and trash, trying to satisfy some ground commander’s logistics, single aircraft trying to stay out of small arms range. A load of cases of c-rations, a mailbag and a hundred-pound slab of ice and encouragement for ground troops. Approach into the wind, into the sun and into a dust out blind touchdown. The Stallion unloads, performs a from the ground blind takeoff and it is back for another load with that noise and those vibrations flying without cover but using the eyes and skill of the crew chief and door gunner for protection.
Tired and bored, but ever watching and ever planning the Sidekick light fire team flies in clear cloudless sky with the constant drone of that noise and those vibrations high above small arms range returning home from a MACV standby mission in which there has been no action. Contact is made and lead Sidekick informs Dong Ba Thin Ops that weather is closing in and that RON at Dalat is necessary. Ops confirms the request and states that three Stallions have also required RON and are there in Dalat. Refuel, secure the aircraft, taxis to the Hotel Modern, a meal at a Chinese Restaurant and a night with cooler temperatures than at Dong Ba Thin brought temporary relief from that noise and those vibrations.
The pleasant day and beautiful area were completely unnoticed as the veteran came into the hotel and spotted the Welcome 92nd AHC sign. He restrained the impulse to enter the conference room before registering in an effort to be like the cool and insouciant member of the combat aviation team that he had once been. When the meeting time came the veteran reconnections turned into a time of celebrating and updating memories. As the reunion progressed each member realized that they were not just men who had fought together accompanied by that noise and those vibrations but true comrades who had previously been willing to put their lives on the line for each other.
The veteran's wife accompanied him into the hotel. She was not really sure about this meeting of older men who had once been in a war together and was especially unsure of meeting the wives or other guests of these veterans. Her pride in his service had never wavered even though she had seen changes after his return. At first negativity then detachment but after 911 a renewed patriotism and now this desire to reunite with fellow veterans. As the reunion progressed she realized that each member cared about the others in a real way. She also began to feel like she was a part of the group and to comprehend some of their memories but she could not understand what “that noise and those vibrations” had to do with anything!