by Geoffrey R. "GR" Webster
Getting hassled for being an FGN on this list by a bunch of out of control,
Ballantine Ale guzlin, pussy chasin, peanut butter nab eatin, chuck yeager
wanabee, dinky dau CWOs and crewmen who continue to show no respect for a former
RLO, reminded me of what I had to put up with when I joined our gunship
platoon, the 'Mustangs' {flying C models} part of the 68 AHC 'Top Tigers' out
of Bien Hoa - June 68- 69.
My initiation was more like an evaluation, and was similar to others at that
time as I recall. Basically I was yanked out of bed for my first gunship ride
under the guise of an emergency gun mission and they needed a copilot ASAP -
no one else available etc.... It involved a hot single ship mission where a
senior Mustang a/c flew, while briefing me over the intercom about a VC NVA tank
attack on a fire base near the Saigon river south of Saigon. So as we got to
the area we went hot with all the crew talking it up big time.
We dropped down to reed height at max a/s- and bingo! right ahead of us was
a fucking tank, everybody firing and screaming. The gunners screaming about
receiving rounds etc.... I didn't know what the fuck was going, never heard so
much noise before in my life as the ac fired his rockets, the M-60s blasting
away, so I just hunkered down in my seat - fascinated and too new to be scared.
Next thing I knew I was shot! Burning sensation in my back. Couldn't believe
I was shot on my very first mission.
Well, by now you have probably figured it out. It was that open free fire
zone near that US Navy base [Na Bay?? CRS} on the Saigon river and that fucking
tank had been there since the French left it there in 1944 or so. The crew
chief was firing his M-60 so that the spent rounds would arc up over the seat,
bounce off my helmet and fall into my shirt back. And boy it burned. I guess
they figured if I could put up with all that without leaving nicotine satins in
my underwear, screaming for mother and could laugh about, I could handle a
gunship pilot's life. I got my Mustang scarf shortly thereafter {still have it}
and that served to keep the shells from going down my back whenever the crew
chief wanted to piss me off. I should have mentioned that I was one of the
very few pilots not selected to join the Mustangs by the Mustangs by vote with
black ball priviledges, but was assigned by the CO after only a few days in
country and just flight school flying time. Perhaps the Mustangs wanted to scare
the hell out of me so I would not want to take over as 6. Anyway it didn't
work- I loved being in the Mustangs {should have refused being assigned/promoted??
as Ops Officer a few months later, but back then we did what we were told}. A
few days later, when I was learning how to fly right seat and fire rockets -
an old timer Mustang asked me if I wanted to shoot a M-79 grenade launcher out
my side while he flew - guess by now you guys have also figured out what
happened when I fired that sucker - bang! the recoil sent the stock into my nose.
{Should pulled a Kerry and put myself in for a Purple Heart for my bloody
nose, but got a 'real' one a few weeks later.}
We flew our Charlie models with out the cockpit doors - thereby supposedly
avoiding the aluminum shrapnel when rounds came in. So in those monsoon
drenchings the old timer would park the ship when refueling and rearming so the FNG in
the left seat would get the full blast of the wind driven rain - it took them
a while to figure it out and wonder why the a/c would always take over for
landings in the rain.

Other things the old timers did to FNGs was to call to the two gunners on
private intercom while he was looking out the window and day dreaming, fat, dumb
and happy - tell them to buckle down then drop pitch abruptly sending the FNG
into the greenhouse.

Ah, yes, the old days....... of course I did the same shit to every new guy
from then on.