A Company, 101st Assault Helicopter Battalion,101st Airborne Division

 

First and Finest

 

 

The Comanchero Name

A/101st Aviation's was first assigned to Camp Eagle in December of 1967 and their call sign was Alpha Eagle until the first part of 1969. The story behind the renaming from Alpha Eagle to Comancheros. Please contact the webmaster  if you have any additions or corrections to this story or any other information on this web site.;

    In 1968 101st Airborne Division got a new commander, General Zais, and he wanted to be having the Eagle 6 call sign for his own. Although the story is that the old timers were not happy about the changing of the call sign. The A/101 veterans had just gone through TET 68 and they were very proud of their performance and the call signs reputation earned in that battle. We tried to become Anheuser-Busch "landing at the brewery". The beer company liked it and even sent us decals. The eagle for the 101st and the star because we were THE BEST! They were even going to get us furniture, but it all got shafted by senior command (Zais) who thought it wasn't tasteful.

    However, the search was now on for a new nickname and call sign for A/101.  After some very serious discussions in the O Club, Andre "Strange Tom" Thomas, Comanchero 23, Larry "DoDo" Herring, Comanchero 10, and Capt. Michael Gouch Comanchero 40, from El Paso, Texas, remembered a group called the Comancheros that existed in the 1830's and lived around the Commanche Indians. They raided both sides of the border and traded with the Indians and such. He remembered them as a despicable bunch, made up of Mexicans, Spaniards, Indians, Blacks and Gringos from varied ethnic backgrounds. The Comancheros were feared by all of West Texas, trusted by none and loved by few. They, however, did have a common bond of Brotherhood that was to be admired. Andre "Strange Tom" Thomas liked the John Wayne movie THE COMANCHEROS, threw the idea into the pot and the next day we pulled pitch as THE COMANCHEROS.

 

Although the spelling of the name has changed over the years, The very first spelling was Komanchero, then changed to Comanchero, then changed to Commanchero in 1987 and finally in 1999 it was changed back to Comanchero which the current unit is called today.

 

 

Several views of the Comanchero Company Area at Camp Eagle

 

The Comanchero Hideout. Unless you were there at the time you likely wouldn't believe it - almost unfit for human habitation. This was taken in either late Nov or early Dec 68. Some time later, starting in about Jan 69, the Comancheros started a self-help building program and had several neat troop billets by the time I left at the end of Apr.
Photo and comment by John D. Kennedy

 

The A/101 AVN Company area, May 1969

Provided by Augie Uleckas

The Comanchero Company area in 1971

Photo By Robert Carr.

Landing at the Company Area

Photo by Tom Nietsche

 

Building the Hideout at Camp Eagle

When I was with the Comancheros we had a platoon leader named 1LT Larry Herring (I am not sure of the correct spelling of his name). I know he was an architect and he is the one that drew up the plans for our TOC and for the pilots new shower. He made them come to life. A little bit of everyone helped on the TOC. It was made of really thick timbers. We initially tried to cut one with a hand saw and it wore three of us out before we finally gave up and went looking for a chain saw which finally did the trick. The shower came about because one of our pilots had a brother with the Sea Bees out at Eagle Beach and they needed something done that we could help them with so we got a hot water heater from them in exchange for our services. So we endured that Emerson heated shower until we got our new shower/clothes washing building done. I digress though from the purpose of this information, and that is to give credit due to 1LT Herring for his talents. I also heard that he was the individual that drew up the Comanchero patch.

Jerry L. Simpson, Comanchero 18, then Comanchero 42 when we were F Troop 1/17 Cav. Feb 69 to Feb 70.

 

Victor Anderson remembers building the company area:

    It was Larry Herring, (Do-Do), who put together the plans to build the TOC. He also went on to build the O-Club with a little help from his friends, it was much nicer than the tent. Later on the he organized the new showers (god were those nice), and also upgraded a few of the hooch's behind the original ones that were getting overcrowded. I think you're correct, (Do-DO) did design the original Comanchero patch.
    There were several missions to requisition materials for the club. In fact I wonder if Gouch remembers the little trip he and I took to Hue via a jeep from Camp Eagle. We wanted to obtain some items for the club that would add a little to the atmosphere. We headed off to Hue and when we got there proceeded to cross over the perfume River Bridge into Hue and then turned off to the east along a canal. There were a few shops that had nice tiles, bamboo curtains, etc. We were just starting to get into negotiating with the shop keepers when a couple of Marine MP's with steel pots, flack jackets, etc. stopped us and turned us back, apparently there were some bad guys in the area. Needless to say we didn't argue with them.
    There were also several trips to the Marines supply yard in Phu Bai to get lumber, nails, and other basic materials. It always amazed me what you could get for a bottle of scotch. If I recall correctly "Weird Harold" requisitioned an ice machine from Camp Evans but the guys he took it from found out and we had to return it.
    Towards the end of our little jaunt in Chu Lai Larry got a really sweet deal; he went TDY to Thailand for the remainder of his tour as an Army artist.
    Larry organized a get together of some former Comancheros I believe in 1974-75 in Oklahoma City. I remember Bobby Scanlan, Mike Gouch, myself and a few others showed up for the week-end. The last I heard from Larry, (1976-77), he was engaged and was a practicing architect in OKC.
Victor W. Anderson, Comanchero "22" Double Deuce, 08/1968-08/1969

 

 

Comanchero Unit Organization

    In the time of Vietnam, the tempo and intensity of daily flight operations was relatively high. The company had twenty UH1H's and normally put up a package of 1 and 10 daily, the 1 being a console C&C and the 10 being slicks, against a mission array that might include an assault or two, and then a full range of diverse support missions for various elements, usually in single ship or two ship missions.
    At night, there was a 'nighthawk' mission in a specially equipped aircraft, and early before daylight, a weather check...Some lucky soul would have the honor of cranking and sitting on the departure end of the Hideout 'runway' until the fog lifted enough to get out, then would report what he saw.

    We averaged about 1600 hours a month, had our own mess hall, motor pool, communications shack, POL, service platoon, and aircraft maintenance detachment, even an LOH in the form of an OH-6 that battalion was quick to pool.
    For routine assaults, our attack helicopters came from the battalion attack helicopter company, in 1970-71, D Company, Hawks, had 12 AH-1G Cobras, and would send a light fire team, two aircraft, to make up what we then called a "1-10-2" package, e.g. "one, ten, and two". We looked to keep 4 or 5 mission ready aircraft on the ground in the revetments, and 3 or 4 in maintenance, and made sure the operations officer and the maintenance officer got along and coordinated well.

LTC (Ret) Robert Clewell,  Company Commander, A/101 AVN, Oct 1970-May 1971

 

Video footage of the Comancheros, company area, men & aircraft. Circa 1971

The Comanchero Hideout © Kimball D. Kuehn

 

 

The Comancheros where heavily involved in Lam Son 719 - 1971

 

Pictures From Lam Son 719 Circa 1971

 

A 1998 Trip back to Vietnam and Laos

The group sitting on top of a M-48 Tank the South Vietnamese left at Lam Dong.  L to R - Bob Morris, Paul Clewell, Rachel Torrance, Bob Clewell, Ray Ferrante, and two Vietnamese guides.  (photo courtesy of Bob Clewell)

"Just say it was the Comancheros"

A poem written by Jay Tate, Comanchero 26/666, dedicated to the late Frank Duncan, Comanchero 10, who lost his battle with cancer 2/8/99.

The Comancheros "Business Card"

Comancheros in RVN carried this card and the Comancheros of A 4/101 AVN are now carrying the exact same card.

The Hideout Club

Photograph provided by Stephen “Smokey” Stover

The Hideout Club

Photograph provided by Stephen “Smokey” Stover

Comanchero company area 1970

Photograph provided by Joe Turner

Photo provided by Gil Jones and owned by Clarence “Pineapple” Garcia

L/R Pineapple (Garcia), Doug Brown in the back, Ron Kuhn and Gil Jones in the front, in back on right is Paine and far right is T.I. Toller. The hooch was the one between the flight line and company orderly room.

Alpha & Eagle rug and Komanchero cartoon in the Hideout (O Club)
Provided by Stephen R. Stover

Photo was submitted by David Mosier & Bob Carr and is from Gilbert Alvarado's photo Collection. This photograph is the property of Gilbert Alvarado.

"Comanchero  Hueys in Trail"

 

This is the legendary Khe Shan airstrip in the NE corner of RVN. The picture was taken in 1970 pre Lam Son 719 while the airstrip was unoccupied by any “US” personnel. If you look closely in the center of the picture you can see "A101" that was painted on the strip by a A/101 AVN crew while on a CCN mission (names withheld to protect the guilty)

 

Picture provided by Martin DiOrio

Comanchero Nose Art

 

Helmet decal submitted by Stephen Cipot, all rights reserved

The 101st Aviation Battalion (Assault Helicopter) was awarded The Superior Unit Award for their Outstanding Meritorious Performance in the Republic of Honduras during 1983-84

Provided by Dan Gore

101st Airborne sends 1000 troops to Honduras, August 26, 1983, Provided by Dan Gore

 

A/101  Avn  changes to D/101 Aviation

After A/101 returned from Vietnam, the Battalion swapped assets between A/101 and D/101. That is, the A. Co. became the Gunship Cmpany. and D. Co. became the Slick Company.  I was a crew chief in D Co. and we were proudly known as the "Comancheros". It was our unit that later became A 4/101.

 

I will try to tell you what I remember about the D/101 Comancheros. My perspective for the most part is that of an 19 year old . I was assigned to D/101 from 4/1974 to 7/1976. I was an E-2 and was assigned right away to one of the flight platoons as a crew chief. I was one of the few school trained 67N's. When I first got there the company was so desperate for crew chiefs they were getting them from the motor pool. The draftees were leaving the Army and their was no one to take their place. A "shake and bake" Vietnam Vet Spec 5 was my mentor when I arrived. He made sure I learned to crew a Huey the right way. The pilots were a mixture of Vietnam Vets and guys right out of Flight School. Two of the Vets who I know were in the the Battalion during Vietnam were CW2 Gene (Ray) Howell and CW2 RC Morgan.

 

During this time D Company  started to change from the tactics learned during Vietnam. Our emphasis was on fighting a "mid-intensity" conflict in Europe. We went from doing tight 10-15 ship staggered daytime insertions to an LZ, to night time cross FEBA loose V formations  with the formation tightening up on short final. We pioneered night operations that are now taken for granted today. NOE as a doctrine was also pioneered by the 101st. D/101 provided Aircraft to the NOE school which was started at Ft Campbell. One of our aircraft was destroyed while being used by the school with pilots not assigned to our unit. While I was with D/101 we had one fatality. During a Division level field training exercise the Group and Battalion Safety Officer tried to beat a thunderstorm while returning to Campbell AAF. They didn't make it. After searching all night we found the aircraft. Only the tail boom was recognizable. The two pilots, and a crew chief who from our unit, PFC Cowan, were killed. During the summer we did a lot of TDY. We "fought" battles in North and South Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, and Georgia. We always kicked ass too. During the winter we stayed pretty close to home and had FTXs out on the reservation. Although I was never shot at, it was still a hard life for a crew chief. Formation at 6:30, then go out to the airfield. If our unit wasn't flying then we were usually getting the aircraft ready to support the NOE or Instrument training school. The crew chief during those days sat behind and between the pilots in the jump seat. The PAX did not sit on the floor like in Vietnam, they sat in seats that were back to back. Every time we picked up troops (even during CA's) I had to get out of the aircraft and make sure the troops were buckled in. Come to think of it, it's a good thing no one was shooting. As I said, a lot of our activity was at night, so it was not uncommon to finish a mission at one or two in the morning, daily and cover the aircraft, and have to report for formation at 6:30am the next day. Crew rest wasn't discussed much when came to crew chiefs. 

 

Although we thought of ourselves as the best flying unit in the 101st (and WAY better than those Kingsmen and Black Widows!) we did not seem to have E'spirt de Corps that your era or A 4/101 have. Maybe it was Watergate or the post war trauma or Jimmy Carter's malaise, I don't know. Most of the people in my unit, Officers and Enlisted, just seemed to be marking time until something better came along.

 

I've been watching this site for two years and I seem to be the only one from my era with any interest about the Comanchero web site. I guess this why D/101 was overlooked. I'm sorry, but I don't have any pictures from this time, some how, they ended up lost. This post is kind of a colloquial snap shot of the era. 

 Tom Cavanaugh, 04/1974 - 07/1976, D/101 Avn Comanchero

   Special Operations Group, SOG, Support

 During 1970 and 1971 era, The Comancheros supported SOG personnel on numerous missions in I Corp.  The Comancheros were presented this plague in 1970 by CCN MLT 2 in appreciation of the Comancheros aerial support on those missions.

The plague reads as follows

Company A 101st AVN BN

COMANCHEROS

FOR HAVING YOUR SHIT IN ORDER

THE BEST DAMN GNATS IN SE ASIA

This Comanchero plague  was presented to Richard Bittle in 2007 by LTC (Ret) Robert Clewell in thanks for  his work with A/101 Avn. Richard plans to present this plaque to  the new 101st Airborne Museum at Fort Campbell, KY  when  it is built. In hopes that future generations can enjoy this special part of our Comanchero legacy.

Photograph enhanced by Ponytail Paul Cauley

 

Doug Kibbey's 2005 Trip back to Vietnam - Then and now photograph of I Corp and Camp Eagle

The SOG Presidential Unit Citation ceremony at Fort Bragg.

More pictures & videos of this and other eras in the legacy of A/101 Avn

   Merchandise available with a donation to the A/101 Avn Association

 

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