THE GLADIATOR 1967 HISTORY PAGE


The year 1967 was an extremely busy, and extremely rewarding year for the men and officers of the 57th Assault Helicopter Company. They started the year with little more than an activation order at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At the Christmas Truce looking back over the year the unit had come a long way. It was by then a combat proven unit serving the cause of freedom at Kontum City in the Republic of Vietnam. Throughout the year 1967 the 57th had had gone through an intensive training period at Fort Bragg. In October the Gladiators and Cougars deployed to Vietnam and by the end of December were operating from a new home at Kontum Army Airfield.

The story of the 57th Aviation Company in 1967 actually started on 18 November 1966 with the activation orders of the 236th Aviation Company(Airmobile Light). The activation order provided the 236th with its maintenance and avionics support by activating the 615th Transportation Detachment (CHFM) and the 822nd Signal Detachment (AVION).

On 1 December PVT Louis M. F. Setkoski became the units first member coming from Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 80th General Support Group at Fort Bragg. That same day the unit was attached to 627th Supply and Service Battalion, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The units first Commanding Officer took command on 20 December. He was Major Kenneth J.G. Sullivan, Sergeant First Class David A. Whitney assumed the duties of First Sergeant on 15 January 67 for both the 236th and its detachments. The life of the 236th Aviation Company was short lived.

On 8 February 1967 the 236th was deactivated and the 57th Aviation Company was activated, replacing the 236th. Major Sullivan assumed command of the new unit and immediately began to organize the company and detachments from the assets of the former 236th Aviation Company. The attachments were the same units the 236th had. The 615th Transportation Detachment (Cargo Helicopter Field Maintenance) commanded by CPT Niles C. Clark Jr. and the 822nd Signal Detachment with Private First Class James H. Davis. The going was slow at first due to the lack of personnel. By March the unit had only 5 Commissioned Officers and 3 Warrant Officers with 46 Enlisted men. TO&E Called for 14 Commissioned Officers, 53 Warrants and 146 Enlisted men. On 17 April Major Bernard R. Allman assumed command of 57th from Major Sullivan.

During the months of May and June the units personnel strength grew steadily to the point where by the end of June the company was at 90% of its authorized strength. With the influx of people the unit turned to its major task of training in preparation for deployment to Vietnam. During the months of April, May and June the 57th received the equipment organic to an aviation unit. The most noteworthy of this equipment was its aircraft, Twenty-three UH-1H models with the new improved "Dash 13" engines along with 8 UH-1C gunships. With the equipment and personnel on hand training progressed smoothly throughout the summer months. A normal days activities consisted of class room instruction for the entire unit during the morning. These classes were prepared and presented by the officers and warrants on subjects pertaining to operations in Vietnam. The afternoon schedule called for "on the job" training for the companys personnel in their duty assignment. This consisted of the flight platoons flying simulated missions over the Fort Bragg area. Maintenance personnel began pulling scheduled and unscheduled maintenance which was to become the heart of the companys operation in Vietnam.

Several operations highlighted the units training. During the training the company worked closely with the 3d Bn, 503rd Infantry Regiment which was also preparing for deployment. This training consisted of numerous airmobile operations and culminated in a company operation at the Marine Base at Cherry Point, N.C. on 21 July with the 503rd. The operation consisted of lifting the companies of the 3d Bn, 503rd into several landing zones around the marine base. The 57th used 16 slicks and 4 gunships on this operation. This training was particularly good in that the terrain at Cherry Point is quite similar to that found in Vietnam. Other highlights of the training included the POR (Preparaion for Overseas Replacement) qualification of the individuals in the unit. These activities consisted of arms qualification, a gas chamber exercise, an escape and evasion program, taking the PCPT (Physical Combat Proficiency Test), and last but not least, bringing medical records up to date with shots and physicals. The 57th's gun platoon, the Cougars, qualified on the Fort Bragg range during the first two weeks of August. This consisted of qualifying the members of the platoon in the XM21, and M-5 systems. The crew chiefs and door gunnersalso were qualified with the door gun that each one mans on the ships once in Vietnam.

While at Fort Bragg the unit gained valuable experience while participating in several of the 82d Airborne Divisions field problems. The units gunships participated in the annual Blue Chip combined services fire power demonstration on 3 May. The 57th lift platoons provided airmobile support for the quarterly 82d FTX at Camp McCall, North Carolina in May.

Through out the summer of 1967 as the units training progressed the unit stood by prepared for an additional mission. As racial violence spread from city to city across the land the 57th stood by for possible action at any trouble spot.

On 22 August the units training culminated with the successful completion of the ATT (Army Training Test). This was conductedon the Fort Bragg Reservation. It consisted of handling the missions that were to become the daily routine mission once in Vietnam. The airmobile assault, medevac, resupply and fire support missions were incorporated throughout the three day test. With successful completion or this test the 57th Aviation Company, 615th Transportation Detachment and 822nd Signal Detachment were Vietnam bound.

DEPLOYMENT

Through out the month of August preparations were made for the 57th's deployment. Each platoon and detachment was responsible for packing its own equipment. Conex containers were assigned to the various platoons and sections and were packed by them. All flying activities ceased at the completion of the ATT and the aircraft went into maintenance for a periodic inspection prior to their being flown to the west coast for shipment. The units motor vehicles were given their final inspections and prepared for movement to Charleston South Carolina.

On 17 September the 57th's vehicles moved in convoy to Charleston. The companies conexs were shipped by rail to Charleston to be loaded on boats for their trip to Vietnam. On 3 September 1967, Labor Day, the first slick platoon of eleven aircraft departed on its 6 day journey to Sharpe Army Depot in Stockton, California. On the 4th of September the second flight of eleven departed. The gun platoon of 8 aircraft and one slick departed on the 5th. At Sharpe the aircraft were met by the unit's maintenance personnel for their final intermediate before being turned over to the Aircraft Shipment Section at Sharpe.

Upon returning to Fort Bragg the unit's personnel began the process of packing, banding and palleting each individual's personal effects and field equipment. This equipment accompanied the company when it deployed. At the end of this period unit personnel went on leave.

The unit's advanced party lead by Major Allman departed Fort Bragg on 10 October 1967 on two Air Force C 130 aircraft.

The 57th Aviation Company along with its detachments departed Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base on the 18th thru the 21st of October on giant Air Force C 141 Starlifters. Five C 141 aircraft were provided for the deployment. Three carried the personnel, the remaining two loaded with essential start up equipment. The trip took 28 hours with stops at Elmendorf AFB in Alaska and Yoakota AFB outside of Toyko Japan. The final stop was at New Pleiku AFB in the Central highlands of Vietnam's II Corps area.

BUILDING OF KONTUM BASE AND ACTIONS IN COUNTRY

Upon arrival in the Republic of Vietnam the unit became the 57th Assault Helicopter Company. Hosted by its parent unit, the 52d Combat Aviation Battalion of Camp Holloway Pleiku, the 57th's personnel immediately in processed through the normal channels such as personnel and finance, and what became known as a "DEROS Shuffle" (DatE of Rotation Over Seas) took place. The "DEROS Shuffle" had a two fold purpose: It provided that a unit would NOT be comprised of personnel all scheduled to go home on the same date, and that a certain level of experienced personnel would "flesh out" the ranks of a newly assigned unit. In the case of the 57th, fully 1/3 of the unit's officers and men were placed in other units. In return the other units provided the 57th with the experienced personnel who helped orient and train the remaining members of the unit in combat operations in the Central Highlands.

Following in processing at Holloway the units members were taken to Kontum where the work of building a new home - Kontum Army Air Field - (a.k.a. "Rocket City") for the unit was in process. The units advanced party had laid out the compounds basic outline by the time the main force arrived. Once the main force arrived at Kontum the work of erecting tents, building a maintenance area, a motor pool, mess hall, operations center, orderly room and numerous other details that go with building a new home were undertaken in earnest. What seemed like millions of sand bags were filled, bunkers were built, a barb wire perimeter established, a revetment area - the "Colosseum"for the Gladiator slicks, and the "Cougar's Den" for the Cougar Guns - was cleared.

At the beginning of November word was received that our aircraft had arrived at Vung Tau and were ready for pick up. On 3 November a group of the unit's aviators flew to Vung Tau and brought back the first of three flights of the unit's aircraft, arriving back at Kontum on 5th. By the end of the second week of October the 57th had all its aircraft at Kontum. During the last week of October and the first week of November Gladiator and Cougar pilots, and crewmen were sent to fly with the other units in the battalion to receive their In Country check outs.

On 12 November the unit became fully operational, and received its mission: That of general aviation support to the Northern II Corps area. The daily missions usually consisted of providing transportation for personnel and equipment connected with the various US elements such as Special Forces, MACV and the Fourth Division. In its initial 6 weeks of operations the 57th Assault Helicopter Company logged 5253 hours with 13460 sorties of aviation support. By the end of 1967 the 57th's "Gladiator" call sign and coat of arms were well known and respected throughout the entire II Corps area.

During the month of November 1967 the Battle of Dak To raged. The 57th's slicks, the lightly armed troop transport ships, contributed to the combined allied effort by providing the ground commanders with airmobility for his troops and supplies thus playing a major role in the defeat of the enemy. During this battle the 57th's gun platoon "the Cougars" were battle tried and became combat proven. The Cougars were called upon on numerous occasions to provide close fire support for the infantry engaged in the Battle of Dak To, and the infamous Battle of Hill 875. They also acted as escorts for medevac ships and patrolled highway 14 from Pleiku to Dak To, insuring that convoys were safe from enemy ambush. The letters of appreciation and commendation of LTC Lukert, the 52d CAB CO, Col Smith, the l7th CAG CO and MC Peers, the CG of the 4th Division attest to the fine job done by the 57th on Operation MacArthur.

As 1967 come to a close, the first permanent building was completed. The new Mess hall was opened on the day before Christmas. On Christmas day the annual turkey feast was served. Looking back on 1967 the men of the 57th Assault Helicopter Company, the 615th Transportation Detachment and the 822nd Avionics section had come far. They had a great deal to be proud of and all were looking forward to the coming truce in celebration of the 1968 Lunar New Year, called TET. And what a celebration it turned out to be!

COMMAND AND CONTROL

During 1967 the 57th Assault Helicopter Company had the following commanding officers.

20 Dec 66 - 17 Apr 67: Major Kenneth J.G. Sullivan, 04030953, ARTY

17 Apr 67 - 6 Dec 67: Major Bernard R. Allman, 04011674, INF

6 Dec 67 - Major George E. Burnison, 079206, INF

On 5 Jan 1967 Major Niles C. Clark Jr., 0F103812, TC assumed command of the 615th Transportation Detachment.

Warrant Officer Harvey Baker Jr., W3431193, took command of the 822nd Signal Detachment on 14 August 1967.




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