by Bill Kelbaugh
When I came back from Vietnam, I was assigned as a Tactics Instructor at
Evans Army Heliport on Fort Stewart, Georgia. I was there from about
April 68 to December 69. We would normally have 4 students a month (2
WOC's and 2 RLO's). Our students were in the last month of training
before graduation. Sometimes we would fly from Evans and sometimes we would have to ride a
bus up to Tac-X.
When the students flew solo at night, we had to have IP's in every LZ
with the ground party. A chase ship would drop of the IP's in the
various LZ's and then perform flight following. This particular night I
was assigned to be one of the chase pilots.
Everything was going well and we were having a great time boring holes
in the sky and not paying much attention. We had done this many times
before, The last students left Tac-X. We had a system - we would follow them
around the route and pick up the LZ instructors as we went around.
Everything was great until we left the next to last LZ. We had 5 IP's
on board. We followed the students for a while and then they called and
said they thought they were lost and they were going back to Tac-X. No
problem - we would just call the last LZ and do some FM homing. But we
couldn't get a good signal - nothing but a lot of static. We were
cussing the IP on the ground for not responding. Oh well, we would just
have to fly there and pick him up. After a while, when we couldn't find
the LZ we figured we might have a problem. 4 IP's on the radio and one
taking a nap.
Too many cooks spoil the soup. Everybody had a different idea about
what to do. One suggestion was to turn on the ADF and head back towards
Tac-X. One problem - we were assigned the aircraft that didn't have an
wasn't in that direction! 4 IP's arguing about what to do. We finally
came to a majority decision to fly further south for a while. It
started getting real dark. Since the Savannah VOR obviously wasn't in
the right place, we decided to see if we could pick up the low powered
VOR at Ft. Stewart. We seemed to get a good signal, but damn if it
wasn't pointing north where it couldn't really be. It was getting
darker and darker. Finally the 20 minute fuel light popped on and we
decided we might as well follow the VOR. Finally we saw some lights in
the distance. It sure looked like Wright Army Airfield from the south.
How did we get down there? What happened was the student got lost and
put us south of Claxton before we started paying attention. We though
we were south of Statesboro. No wonder Savannah and Ft Stewart weren't
where they were supposed to be.
For these of you who have never had the experience of being lost at
midnight over the swamp between Ft. Stewart and Jesup, Georgia with a 20
minute light on, I can tell you it is pitch black dark.
We limped into Wright Airfield breathing fumes. We called Tac-X and
talked to the Major. Why don't we just refuel and hop over to Evans and
you guys bring the bus back. The Major said no, they had to have our
ship at Tac-X that night and they were waiting on us.
So we flew our helicopter with 5 IP's back up to Tac-X. What a rousing
reception we got from all the students and IP's who had to wait an extra
couple of hours to go home. They were really thrilled with us. Talk
about wanting to hide under a rock or ride under the bus so I didn't
have to listen to all of the grief. Next time I had the chase mission,
you better believe I was looking at a map the entire evening.
48th AHC Blue Stars 67/68