A mission in 1969

We cranked kinda late one morning for a flight over the border. We had to
leave our wallets, dog tags, and ID's at the flight operations desk. No
insignia was allowed on our nomex flight suits so I wore a worn out nomex
suit that was in the bottom of my footlocker from when I'd had no insignia
as a new flight member. My later suits had been sent to the gook tailors to
be sewn with my flight wings and Comanchero patch. Our first stop was at FB 
Burchasgarten, on the East rim of the Ashau. The pilots had been briefed as
to our mission but I had no idea where our final LZ was except that it was
another cross border operation. I had loaded extra cans of belted M-60 ammo
the night before when I saw the mission board in flight operations. After
getting clearance from Eagle Tower to leave the Hideout with a left break to
the West we climbed to 1500 feet agl (above ground level) and took the valley
route to the West up the valley towards the Ashau. From Camp Eagle the
piedmont plains were integrating from soft seaside tundra to rolling hills,
to soft green hills, to slopes that raised sharply into sudden peaks, small
valleys, and a major mountain range not much unlike the East slope of the
Rockies looking from The East slope. Except at sea level as a starting
elevation. These were hi range mountains. We followed the obvious valley to
the West which happened to be following the highway the great Green Machine
had chosen to create a major thoroughfare into the interior of Vietnam's bosom.
From the aircraft it was like a wide, dirty, muddy logging road, winding
around the topographical contours of the valley and following the slope on
the upgrade to its destination. Thank God I was flying above the
construction below. Flying into Firebase Burchasgarten was no easy thing. The
reason for the location of this Firebase was that the howitzers on this
Firebase could lob 155 mm and 105 mm (we called them dime nickel and penny
nickel nickel on the radio), shells from Camp Eagle to Khe San.  These men
lived on top of a mountaintop, 40 miles from Vale. Or anywhere. When they
were lobbing shells that were big as my footlocker we called to ask in what
direction they were firing. We flew into the base from the other direction.
The Folks we were gonna take over the border were waiting for us when we
landed at the Firebase. There were two big wrestler type Americans with green
and black paint all over their faces and arms and four little men with two
crossbows, one AK-47, and a chainsaw. We fueled again at Burchasgarten from a
bladder with a Briggs & Stratten pull crank gasoline pump, and flew west,
with these smelly fellows on the cargo deck.
>From Burchasgarten we dropped across the deck of the valley and went thru a
gap on the West side across the border.
If 270 is west I would guess we flew 250 for 20-40 miles and stopped over a
small ridge in the middle of nowhere. One of the guys was pointing the
spot to the pilot without a headset. We hovered low on the ridge and the men
slid down the ropes and we left. When we were away I tossed the ropes to get
them out of the way. We went back on their call in about 15 minutes. An LZ
was cut on the ridge and we landed. There was a UH-1H upside-down I hadn't
seen in the jungle when we dropped them off. They started throwing dead
bodies onto my cargo deck like stove wood. A LURP team had crashed and we had
to get the bodies of the flight crew and the LURP's away before Nixon was
embarrassed. These men had crashed two days ago. In the jungle. I rode left
seat with this pile of men on my cargo deck. The man that had his face
towards me in the pile had grown a beard. He smelled sweet like hay that's
wet when you turn it over with a shovel on a hot day. The hair on his face
had grown to good stubble. I didn't know a man's hair still grew after
death.  Whether taking hot chow to FB Pistol, flying 100 knots over the surf
on a gravy run to Danang at low level or taking mail and replacements to Khe
San on a Sunday. I was never an innocent again. I was 18 years and 4 months


Gary Lee Stamey

Comanchero Crew Chief 65-1011

Feb’69 thru Feb ‘70


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