Bluestar Introduction

I was fortunate to serve with the two best Assault Helicopter Companies in Vietnam; first with the 155th Assault Helicopter Company from July 8, 1970 until its deactivation in January of 1971 and then with the 48th Assault Helicopter Company for the remainder of my tour, January 1971 through July 4, 1971. While I was with the 155th AHC, I was extremely proud to be a “Stagecoach” slick crewchief and thought there was none better. When I was assigned to the 48th AHC and became a “Bluestar” crewchief, I came to realize that they too were an outstanding organization with a proud history and that performed with gallantry and the highest level of professionalism during the extremely difficult times that followed. To all my fellow comrades, living and dead, I salute you with pride.

There is a somewhat humorous story relating to my first Bluestar introduction – but that wasn’t the 48th AHC; I’ll try to capture it here. You will have to pardon if I have some of the details in error… this was 29 years ago and I suffer from CRS, but I’ll do my best.

In December of 1970 or January of 1971, after we had received word the 155th was being deactivated, we were still pulling missions as usual; combat assaults, RFs, admin runs, etc. as they were assigned to us. We received word from battalion to take our four best UH-1H birds down to Vung Tau for VNAF turn in – no more information was given. As it so happened on the day we were to go to Vung Tau, we also had a combat assault on for that morning I believe in the Plieku area. After busting our buns flying to Plieku, inserting the troops, and then flying to Vung Tau, it was late in the day and getting on to dark when we arrived at the turn in depot.

One of the maintenance officers of the depot area came out to meet us and asked what we were doing there. We informed him these were the 155’s four best birds for VNAF turn in and, after a quick look at our “cream of the crop”; he proceeded to laugh his butt off. He informed us that VNAF would accept no aircraft with more than 500 hours on the airframe or that had ever taken a round – mind you not one that had been patched but any hit – this little tidbit of information had not been shared with us. Of course all our aircraft had received battle damage at one time or another and all had in excess of the 500 hours flight time. He was about ready to tell us to get our birds out of his maintenance area when the senior 155 pilot (and I think that that was my AC, Capt. Craig but I can’t say for sure) informed him we had had a long day, were tired, and that we were going to RON in Vung Tau and head back to Ban Me Thuot in the morning.

Upon inquiring into the sleeping facilities available to transit aircrews, we were informed there were BOQ rooms available for the officers but that the enlisted personnel had no such facilities and would have to sleep in the aircraft, bulls_ _t – this was REMF city, not the field. When we investigated this situation further, the maintenance officer was very explicit in informing us that downtown Vung Tau was an Off Limits area. The 155 senior officer then told the enlisted personnel that lift off time in the morning was 0800 and he didn’t care where we slept but be there.

To a man, the enlisted personnel hopped the first available deuce and a half going out the gate and headed for downtown to find a meal and a hotel room. To our amazement the first place we spotted was the “Bluestar Bar and Hotel”, and, as I and at least one other guy were being reassigned to the 48th, it seemed only fitting that we RON there. We got rooms, had a meal, and being dog-tired I crashed and burned at a reasonable hour (honest GI, that’s the truth). Some of the other guys still had a little thirst to quench and the desire for some female companionship so proceeded to the bar. (Please recall that I was peacefully snoozing away at this time.)

- The following was related to me by one of the guys that decided to check out the bar.-

The boys did manage to find a couple of not so “wholesome” young ladies and were in the process of negotiating a financial agreement for certain services for the evening. Oddly enough, the young ladies would excuse themselves for some reason or another and would be gone for 15 – 20 minutes before rejoining our young heroes. Being the successful sleuths they were, the guys discovered the young ladies were two-timing them with a couple of Aussies. When they shared this information with the Aussies, they collectively as allies began to dismantle the bar. About this time the MPs were summoned and they proceeded to round our young comrades up and head them toward the pokey. Just as they were getting into the MPs truck, one of the guys asked, “Hey, what about our buddy asleep up in his room?”

- Now I can relate to the story firsthand from this point on. –

Somewhere between 0100 and 0200, I received a knock on my door and was informed that the person doing the knocking was an American MP. I opened the door and proceeded to hear the dubious tale of the shenanigans of my compatriots. While I was not initially in too much trouble, that soon changed when the MP searched me and found the Kabar knife that I always carried – an unauthorized weapon (now tell me that isn’t a crock). I was hustled downstairs and put on the truck with the rest of the 155 guys and headed off to the hoosegow.

The hoosegow facilities in this instance proved to be conexes that someone had taken a cutting torch to and cut out the slots between the ribs… oh yes, one other little point, they had probably been puked in a dozen times and not sufficiently cleaned – I believe our guys contributed to that. Since I was the only coherent guy, I related our sad tale to the MP sergeant in charge. While amused, he did not turn us loose. After much calling around, we did manage to find our officers in the transit BOQ and the senior officer came down to the MP station (I think it appropriate to say he ways highly pissed off at being awakened from his slumber for this trip). When he arrived, he got the MP sergeant’s story and then he asked me our side of it. I proceeded to tell him more or less what I have related to you here. He then asked for the papers with the charges against us which I believe he destroyed in front of the MP sergeant – the sergeant was not amused and said formal copies of the paper work would be sent back to our company area.

The trip back to Ban Me Thuot the next morning was not as cheerful as some missions I have flown with these guys. The paperwork did make it back to Ban Me Thuot before I cleared the company but after relating the story one more time to the First Sergeant, he proceeded to tear the paperwork up as he headed for the latrine – no charges ever appeared on my records of this little incident.

Such was my first “Bluestar” incident.

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