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War Stories

Transition Year 1966 - 1967

Tom Fleming


In August 1966 while commanding D/3/12 Cav, 3rd AD, Germany I received orders to report to USARV for assignment to the 25th Infantry Division on 8 February 1967. The only Part of the orders I knew would be valid was the report date.

When I arrived at the 90th Replacement Battalion, Long Binh and presented my orders I was told that I probably would not be going to the 25th ID by everyone. A couple of hours later my orders were posted to go to the 25 ID and I was told to get my stuff and get on a 2 1/2 ton truck that was taking replacements to Cu Chi and it had to get going because it ad to make the trip in daylight. Because of my rank I had the privilege of riding in the cab rather than the back. Upon arrival I was put up in the 25th Replacement Company for the night. The next morning I was told that I had an appointment at 10:00 with the 25th AVN Bn. S-1 who made all aviator assignments for the DAO.

I decided to go for a walk on the flight line and see if I could find the Air Cav Troop. I ultimately came down the dusty perimeter road and saw the D Troop Air billboard sign and pacing up and down was none other than Major Pete Peterson lecturing what looked like a couple of LRRPs calling them “Ladd” repeatedly. He looked tactically engaged at the time and I thought better of interrupting him. I had known Pete Peterson from his platform instructor days at Ft. Rucker in 1959 and again in 1961 in Korea where he was in command of an Armored Cavalry Troop in the 1/9 Cav on the DMZ and he flew our 0-1s get his flight time from Alpha 18 at Munsan Ne.

At my appointment with the 25th Aviation Battalion S-1 I offered that my experience was with Divisional Air Cav Troops, that I had commanded two of them and an Armored Cavalry Troop. His response was that I would make a good gun platoon leader in A Company, 25th Aviation. I didn’t bite on that saying I would do my best where ever I was assigned and reiterating that my experience was in Air Cav. The S-1 consulted with the Bn XO who came into the room and told me that if I thought I could make my best contribution in Air Cav to go on down there, but to be aware that there was an over strength in field grade officers and that I shouldn’t expect to get as good a position as they were offering. With that the S-1 called D Troop and told them to pick up a replacement officer.

When I arrived in the troop area I was put up in the senior officer’s hooch (straw roof structure out by the perimeter road). The next day I started on my in country flight orientation and checkout in the UH-1C, with MAJ Paul Stalker. A coupe of days later I was told to report to the Troop XO MAJj Prosser. He informed me that because of my rank as a Captain and my previous maintenance experience I was to be assigned to the Service Platoon. I had been assigned to an Aircraft Maintenance Office in my first assignment out of flight school because like D Troop they were over strength officers at the Armor Center Aviation Command and every element was given 2nd Lt’s to watch. I saluted, about faced and headed for the Service Platoon.

MAJ Thomas was the Service Platoon Cdr and one of the original Centaurs, his assistant a CPT Hopkins was leaving in a few days because he had been on the advance party and his DEROS was up. Maj. Thomas told me his DEROS would be coming up in less than a month and that he would work with me through his departure which he did and I am for ever thankful for.

The maintenance team I had to work with was made up of CW3 Bigelow, who had lots of prior aircraft maintenance experience. He had been assigned to fly slicks in the Aero Rifles and decided it was time to come back to maintenance. Mr. Bigelow was going to retire upon DEROS and go into the seminary to be a preacher.

Our Tech Inspector was SP6 Stringham a former CH-21 Flight Engineer. The aircraft Maintenance section was made up of 4 to 6 SP5s and the remaining 6 or 7 PFCs. There was no NCO in the Maintenance Section, no hangar, just a couple of GP medium tents. rigged together to serve as an office, parts room, avionics and weapons repair shop.

The Service Platoon had a UH-1D “Stableboy” which was manned by the Platoon leader, a WO1 Sholtz and fill in crew chiefs and door gunners. I served as the Service Platoon Cdr from early March until September 67 when I became the Troop Commander.

With the exodus of the original Centaurs the turnover in personnel was dramatic. The troop went from about thirteen field grade officers to three. MAJ Stenehjem, became the Cdr, MAJ Thorenson XO and MAJ Stalker Flt Operations Officer, CPT Delvy, Aero Scout Plat, CPT Fisher Aero Rifle Plat, CPT Wilde Aero Weapons and a LT Gerry the ground leader of the Aero rifles. CPT Jackson took over the LRRP. This remained in place for a number of months. In May the squadron Commander DEROSed and his replacement LTC Shea was not due in until June. MAJ Stenehjem being the senior major in the squadron became the acting Squadron commander and MAJ Thorenson became the acting Troop Commander. MAJ Stenehjem DEROSed about the time the new Squadron Co came in and MAJ Thorenson applied for an extension and became Troop Cmdr. The LRRP Detachment disbanded in July and the personnel were infused into the Aero Rifles. A LRRP Company Troop F was formed during the Oct –Nov time frame. D troop became their trainer and primary means of insertion and extraction.

In July I came out on the major’s list and was promoted right away. Not long after my promotion MAJ Thorenson called me in and told me that his extension had been turned down and that he would be departing for a priority assignment in the states. He also told me to go to LTC Shea and tell him I wanted to be considered for Troop commander. I asked him if he was serious and he said yes. I called Squadron and asked for an appointment with the Squadron Cdr. When I walked in and told LTC Shea that I would like to be considered for the position. He asked me what took me so long and that was that. My team was MAJ Fisher, XO; MAJ Vinson, Flt Opns; CPT Stephenson, Aero Scts; 1LT Powell, Hv Scts; CPT Wilde, Aero Rifles, with LT Mosenthal as ground ldr; LT Buxton, Service Platoon.

From September 1967 through February 1968 aviator replacements were few and far between and all of them were directly from flight school with some minor exceptions. They all preformed magnificently. I am eternally thankful for their service and dedication. Excessive drinking and drugs were not a problem at all. Disciplinary problems were non existent. I only remember one occasion that I had to officially reprimand one of our soldiers.

I departed country 8 February 1968 in the midst of the Tet Offensive. The Squadron with the active involvement of D Troop earned the Presidential Unit Citation for its relief of Tan San Nuht Airfield at the start of the Tet Offensive.