Speed? What Speed?
Just to make an initial introduction, my name is CW-3 Ret. Gerald (Jerry) Bourquin. I arrived in Viet Nam as a WO1 in Nov. 1966 after attending flight school class 66-15 along with Ken Acker and Gary Coke who also were assigned to the 155 in Ban Me Thuot.
Upon receiving my local area orientation I was assigned to the 1st platoon slicks at that time Capt. Pease was platoon leader (later to become major) Shortly thereafter I was designated Stagecoach 12 when I became an A/C, then became the company check pilot at about month 3 (Jan., I think). About Feb I was assigned to the gun platoon, after passing a check ride with Capt. Grimsly (I think that was his name), my call sign became Falcon 3. WO Steve Burchall and WO Bob Johnson were already assigned to the gun platoon. I continued to perform as the company check pilot until I left for home in Nov 67.
When I joined the Falcons we had B’s and C’s and some were frogs(2)with the 40mm turret out on the nose, only 2 of us liked them as you had to be very smooth on the controls during take off or you’d roll the 40mm turret under the nose if it hung up on the PSP and ruin your day. Most ships still had M-60’s with 157 and 158 seven tube pods, in fact we still had a few vertical banks (I think they were called M-3’s). The two Charlie models with 540 rotor systems (with teflon bearings in the blade grips) were a real pain as the teflon would roll up and bind the grip/collective. Not only was the nitrogen charge for the accumulator (collective) not available, we didn’t even have the bottles to put it in, so if we lost both hydraulic systems we could not have moved the collective.
With the C’s we had to watch out for a rotor overspeed in tight turns or while pulling out of a steep dive due to pitch cone coupling.
As we always flew at Max. Gross plus (and if you had a slight quartering tail wind) the CE and gunner had to stand back and watch (laugh) as the pilot had to “hop” out of the revetment as each time the pilot would lift off, the rotor RPM would droop (decay) and you’d land and start all over, usually 3 to 6 hops (attempts) would at least get you out of the revetment and turned around, then hop over the ditch onto the road then hop over the second ditch to the taxiway, then ground taxi to the runway with the CE and gunner walking/running along side the ship, if they jumped on too soon we would stop due to excessive weight and skid friction, we used the same technique for take-off, collective, walk pedals, start moving, CE and gunner jump in, grind to a STOP, start all over, some time it took 2 or 3 attempts (and fuel burn off) but in the end we made it into the air, low and slow.
Speed – what speed?
The best thing we had going for us was the CE and GUNNER, they made the crew principal work. The only thing we had to watch out for was to tell them you were going to make a hard turn or they would keep firing their M-60 at the target and hit the main rotor blades. We also made sure they knew we were going to fire a pair of rockets or two so they didn’t hit a rocket (which happened to me one day, but that’s another story).
Esso Station: Charlie used to move in behind it at night and lob mortars in on us, we couldn’t get clearance to fire back as civilian houses were behind the station, and in the morning Charlie was gone, of course. Oh yes, I remember it well, that was in 66 and 67.
A word or two about Jerry Johns. As class mates and fellow pilots we came to the 155 together and left together. In fact, the day we were to fly out of Ban Me Thuot, we were given a pilot and helicopter to take us to Cam Ranh Bay. We said that the assigned pilot could go with us, but WE were flying. Jerry asked if he could make the take off and fly-by, I said fine (almost a mistake). We lifted off heading west and made a nice 180 to the right and headed right toward the COC and its antennas we were near VNE and kinda breezed by low level to say goodby to the troops. I relieved Jerry of the controls (I felt safer that way), the rest of the flight was uneventful until we landed and Jerry and I climbed out of the helicopter, collected our gear and began to walk away, I heard a voice from the cockpit calling me. “Mr. Bourquin, which way do I go to get back to BMT?” I looked at him thinking he was kidding but he wasn’t, I pointed in the direction of BMT and wished him good luck.
Keith Lane: Easy on the OLD GUY stuff, I was there 7 months before you – ha ha. Did you bring a WO Miester (not sure of that spelling) from the 199th with you during an infusion?
My second tour to VN in ’71-72 (call sign Snake 15) as a member of the Outcasts.
Gerald “Jerry” Bourquin
CW3 Ret. (Butcher Bourquin)
Stagecoach 12/Falcon 3
Nov. 66 thru Nov. 67