Army Otter Association of Vietnam Veterans

Chapter 14
256th Transportation Detachment (ACFT REP)


(John Lynch)
MAC-V



(John Lynch)
1st Avn Bde
 
 
The patch design is the result of a contest that was conducted at Ft. Ord Ca. prior to coming to Vietnam

(John Lynch photo credit)
Unit Patch
256th Transportation Detachment
Nha Trang & Qui Nhon Vietnam
8 September 1965 - 16 April 1971

Company Commanders

Captain James M. Barnes -  8 September 1965 - 9 July 66

Captain Robert O. Hayes -  9 July  1966 -14 June 967

 Major George R. McNutt -  14 June 1967 - 13 December 1967

Major Ellery F. Calkin -  13 December 1967 - April 1968

Major Troy D. Cooper -  April 1968 - 23 August 1968

Captain Loren Peterson - 23 August 1968 - December 1968

1965

 

 On 8 September 1965 brought the arrival of the 256th Trans Det. to the 18th Aviation Company.   They came to us from Fort Ord California on the USNS Blatchford after a 23day journey across the ocean.  The 256th was formed at Ft Ord.  Prior to their final landing in CRB the ship stopped in Okinawa and Qui-Nhon to off load troops and aircraft.  The unit was greeted in C.R.B. by Paul Walker the CO of the 18th Aviation Co. 

The 256th had the following personnel 1 Capt.,1CWO., and 50 Enlisted Men there mission was to take over the job from the 339th Trans Co as a 3rd shop Support

1966

During 1966 the 18th continued to be augmented with an assigned Direct Support Maintenance Detachment - the 256th Transportation Detachment (ACFT REP).

(John Lynch photo credit)

View from water tower, Chow Hall, Flight Line Nha Trang

January 1966, the 256th Trans Detachment continued to perform in their usual outstanding manner with an average availability rate of 74%. Translated into an average flyable rate, this gave the unit 11.4 aircraft on a daily basis - an adequate number to fulfill all mission requirements.

March 1966, a rash of wing damage resulted in the 256th Trans Detachment changing one wing and repairing two others during the month. The aircraft involved in the incident at Ban Me Thout required a wing change. Two other aircraft required wing repair when caribous at Tuy Hoa and Pleiku overlapped wings with the parked Otters. The 256th, despite these incidents, maintained its availability rate at 80%.

June 1966, there occurred two non chargeable incidents resulting in the loss of two Otters for an indefinite period, one in Nha Trang and the other in Pleiku.

The first occurred when an U-1A assigned to the 339th Transportation Company (DS) was involved in an accident on the ramp in front of the maintenance hangar at Long Van.  The UH-1D overlapped blades with another Huey belonging to the 498th Med Evac Company causing extensive damage to both helicopters. During the freak accident, a generator was thrown from the 339th aircraft into the 256th Trans Detachment hangar, striking #55-3273, penetrating the skin and coming to rest INSIDE the fuselage.


(Lloyd Works photo credit)
55-2273 inside hanger with damage from generator

Meanwhile 140 miles away north of Pleiku, CWO Ira Stein was involved in a test flight accident. "Supersonic Stein" or "The Flash" in a burst of speed accelerated #55-3310 to 200 knots. At this speed certain vibrations were experienced which are foreign to the Otter. Upon landing, the inspection revealed that the over-speed had left all wire antennas dragging on the ground, popping numerous rivets, severely wrinkling the wings and stabilizers and had completely torn off the elevator serve tab, resulting in extensive inspection and rebuild. This aircraft had not yet been released from the 604th General Support Company at the time of the test flight.

July 1966, the 256th Trans Detachment performed outstanding services and resulted in the 18th's 14 assigned aircraft having a monthly availability rat of 81%, a new high for the year. This was accomplished despite the change in the command structure of the 256th, which occurred on 9 July 1966. Captain Robert O. Hayes assumed command of the detachment from Captain Jim Barnes.

The waiting was over on 18 July 1966 when the 18th received orders from the 17th Aviation Group directing the unit to move to Qui Nhon to be initiated no later than 31 July and be completed on or before 15 August 1966.

The advance party was dispatched to Qui Nhon on 22 July to perform liaison with the 92nd Aviation Company and to prepare the area for occupation by the Company Headquarters, Operations Section, Service Platoon, and 256th Trans Detachment. The target date for actual movement was set for 7 August 1966.

The most memorable and eventful month for the year saw the 18th move from Nha Trang to Qui Nhon, completely renovate the company area at Qui Nhon; personnel of the unit accomplished feats of engineering and plumbing history with the effective usage of field expedients to correct plumbing, water and flooding issues, as well as re-innovate the company buildings and improve the physical security of the company and motor pool areas.

The Company HQ moved from Nha Trang to Qui Nhon, where buildings used up to then by the 92nd Aviation Company were occupied. Early August 1966 saw the unit deeply involved in the final planning for the move, crating and packing.

Actual movement occurred on Sunday 7 August 1966.

The vehicles and equipment were transported by LST. Personnel, personal items, weapons, items of immediate administrative necessity were transported by Caribou aircraft, one each furnished by the 92nd and 135th Aviation Companies. The last elements of the Company closed into Qui Nhon at 1800 hours on 7 August 1966. Unloading of the LST occurred the following day and the move had been completed by evening time on 9 August 1966. Although the headquarters had moved, the Company retained a platoon (Third Platoon) at Nha Trang.

Despite the movement, turnover in personnel, and reshuffling of key positions - the company was able to complete all assigned missions and a mass of favorable flying records for the month.

On the 1st of the month the 18th participated in the organization day of the 14th Aviation Battalion event held at its headquarters at Phu Tai in the An Somh Valley. Lt Col Samuel Kalagian praised all the units of the battalion for successful completion of their missions. During the ceremony awards and decorations were presented to deserving members of the battalion, to including 4 awards to unit personnel. In 3 short days the 18th would no longer be part of the 14th.

On 4 September 1966, the Company (with attached units) was re-assigned from the 14th Aviation Battalion to the 223rd Aviation Battalion, commanded by Major Charles H. Drummond, Jr.

 

The efforts of the Service Platoon and 256th Trans Detachment paid handsome dividends, as aircraft availability increased from 65% in September to 80% during October.

 

November 1966, the 256th Maintenance Detachment continued to give outstanding maintenance support as the availability rate averaged 75%.

 

In unit history and in Army aviation history to this point, gives the 18th Aviation Company the honor of having the longest continuous service of any aviation unit in Vietnam to date. This history reflects the effort required to supply the daily direct combat support necessary in operation of an "Otter" Company.

 

The Mission of the 18this to provide logistical airlift for movement of supplies and personnel in the combat zone and to provide tactical airlift of combat units and air resupply of units engaged in combat operations. Its specific mission in the Republic of Vietnam is to provide air resupply, medical evacuation and limited troop movement to the First Field Forces, Vietnam, Third Marine Amphibious Force, U.S. Special Forces, JUSPAO and JUSMAAG, Thailand.

 

The 18th is augmented with an attached direct support maintenance element, the 256th Transportation Detachment.

 

Captain Robert O. Hayes commanded the 256th Transportation Detachment until 14 June 1967. Major George R. McNutt assumed command of the 256th until 13 December 1967. Major Ellery F. Calkin is the present commander of the 256th.

 

The unit is assigned to the 223rd Combat Support Aviation Battalion, 17th Aviation Group, 1st Aviation Brigade.

1967

During 1967, Company Headquarters located in Qui Nhon with the mission to provide administrative and logistical support to the three flight platoons. It consisted of a Headquarters Section, Operations Platoon, Service Platoon and the attached 256th Direct Support Maintenance Detachment.

 

The commander of the 256th Maintenance Detachment at this time was Captain Robert O. Hayes.

 

The mission of the 256th Maintenance Detachment is to provide direct support maintenance and limited general support maintenance to the 18th Aviation Company. The detachment also has the responsibility of recovering downed aircraft. During the year, several daring recovery missions were accomplished.

 

On 7 April 1967 , a combined recovery team consisting personnel from the 256th Maintenance Detachment and members of the Service Platoon, 18th Aviation Company, participated in the recovery of a downed U1-A.

 

The recovery team was headed by Chief Warrant Officer James Fyock and consisted of Staff Sergeant James R. Goodwin, SP4 Harrison P. Gilbert, SP4 David E. McCorkle, SP4 Robert K. Petzer, SP4 George N. Simon, SP4 Joseph Benson and SP5 David L. Schmitt.

 

At approximately 1500 hours, the 256th Maintenance Detachment received word that an aircraft from the 18th Aviation Company was down on an unimproved isolated airstrip in an insecure area near Ba Gia.

 

Upon notification of the downed aircraft's disposition and location, CWO Fyock immediately began organizing a crew of mechanics to repair the aircraft. After correctly analyzing the nature of the damage, arrangements were made to have the recovery team and the necessary repair equipment delivered to the downed aircraft site.

 

As soon as the team arrived on location, they began receiving hostile ground fire, requiring all but three of the mechanics to be utilized as security guards, while the remaining three worked on the aircraft. Even though the team had already put in a full day's work, they continued their operation throughout the night, with only a flashlight for illumination, while exposed to hostile fire.

 

Faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles while under constant threat of enemy attack, the recovery team, under the expert guidance and supervision of CWO Fyock, repaired the damaged aircraft overnight. It was flown to Qui Nhon airfield without incident the following morning.

 

As a result of the recovery team's courage, determination, and professional accomplishments, a critically needed and very valuable aircraft was returned to service. For their outstanding work a well deserved Army Accommodation Medal with "V" device was awarded to all eight members of the recovery team.

 

In mid April Major McNutt assumed command of the 256th.

 

Another significant event occurred early in September during the recovery of downed Otter 702 on Dragon Mountain. Receiving word on 7 September, that the missing aircraft 702 had been found on the Mountain, Major McNutt organized a recovery team consisting of himself, SP4 Paul Simon, SP5 Clarence Manseill, and SP6 Esquival Salazar. They were accompanied by the flight surgeon, Captain Ronald F. Crown from the 163rd Medical Detachment.

 

On the morning of the 8th, they proceeded to the crash site on Dragon Mountain by helicopter. Due to low clouds and rain showers that obscured the crash site, they were forced to land several hundred meters down the mountain and cut their way through the dense jungle to the wrecked aircraft. As the team started recovery operations, the jinx of Dragon Mountain struck another fatal blow. Some 200 meters below their position, a USAF O-1A Birddog crashed into the Mountain.

 

Major McNutt immediately requested an emergency evacuation helicopter then organized and led a rescue party down the side of the mountain. After traveling about 100 meters, Captain Crown accidentally unearthed an anti-personnel mine while traversing the mountainside. It immediately became apparent that the entire recovery party was in the middle of an abandoned mine field.

 

Without hesitation and demonstrating exceptional courage, the recovery team continued through the mine field to the flaming wreckage of the O-1 Birddog. By the time they arrived at the aircraft, rockets and small arms ammunition was exploding, making the rescue attempt extremely hazardous.

 

Major McNutt and Captain Crown, with complete disregard for their own safety, subjecting them to the intense head and exploding ammunition, pulled an observer from beneath a burning wing to safety.

 

They immediately returned through the flaming undergrowth and courageously persisted in an attempt to rescue the pilot from the flaming cockpit. It was only when the fuel tanks began to explode, spraying burning gasoline that they were forced to withdraw. All members of the party were "recommended" for the award of the Soldiers' Medal.

 


1968

January 1968 was a normal month until the last two days. Then, without warning, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong launched an offensive on every major city and allied base in Vietnam.

 

At Nha Trang, the unit continued normal operations throughout the Tet offensive as this city received only a small taste of combat.

 

On 20 March 1968 this writer is a Sgt E-5 being transferred to the 256th Transportation Detachment on 20 March 1968 to take over the 256th Technical Supply operations.

 

June 1968, good weather and maintenance by the 256th Transportation Detachment who provided the 18th Aviation Company with field maintenance, made it possible to obtain a respectable monthly score of, 1,003.7 hours flown along with 1,296 sorties, 293 missions, 119.8 tons of cargo and 3,793 passengers.

 

It was during July that a rash of engine breakdowns occurred in the Spartan build Pratt and Whitney engines on the Otters.

 

On 23 August 1968 Captain Peterson assumed command of the 256th Transportation Detachment.

 

The 256th Transportation Detachment provided high quality field maintenance throughout the year by keeping a high rate of availability for the tired, old Otters. During the period from January 1968 to April 1968, Major Ellery F. Calkin commanded the 256th. Major Troy D. Cooper assumed command until August when Major Loren Peterson commanded the 256th the remainder of the year.

 

I made SSG while assigned to the 256th Transportation Detachment in 1968.  

 

During the period 1 January 1968 through 31 December 1968, the Service Platoon at Qui Nhon completed 126 major periodic inspections in addition to numerous instances of unscheduled maintenance. A vigorous maintenance training program was initiated. This was necessitated by the lack of school trained U-1A Otter mechanics. The high Esprit de Corps and "Can Do" attitude of the Service Platoon enabled it to meet the most challenging demands placed on it by the company's mission.

 

During the year the Technical Supply section of the Service Platoon traveled to all of the outlying platoons and established a realistic PLL. This enabled the platoons to be more responsive to their unscheduled maintenance, and increased each platoon's aircraft availability.

 

This year found the Service Platoon with a much improved and more secure aircraft parking area. This was accomplished by the assigned aircraft mechanics in addition to their normal duties. The Service Platoon closed out the year knowing that they had fulfilled all maintenance requirements placed on them and improved their working and living conditions substantially.

1969 - 1970

23 January 1969, I was transferred out of the 256th Transportation Detachment back to the 18th Aviation Company.

 

The following organizational chart shows the 1st Aviation Brigade configuration as of 1970:

 

  

 

 

 

Qui Nhon - The Service Platoon has the supply and motor sections, responsible for organizational maintenance. The platoon provides extensive on-the-job training and cross training of newly assigned maintenance personnel, the training of crew chiefs and the selection of flight platoon sergeants and maintenance personnel. This platoon does an outstanding job of supporting flight sections separated by as much as 250 miles. Because of the dislocation of the flight sections a great deal of flexibility is required by operations and maintenance. Close coordination is required by these two platoons combined with the outstanding job done by each, means cancellations due to lack of aircraft or grounded aircraft is virtually unheard of. The Motor Pool is known as the Qui Nhon "Pig Farm and Speed Shop".

 

On the morning of 16 April 1969, CW2 Norman Baker was test flying Reliable 295 and experienced loss of RPM during the flight. He returned to Qui Nhon and made a precautionary landing without damage.

 

On the morning of 17 July 69, Major William A. Bloemsma was flying Reliable 718 enroute from Qui Nhon to Pleiku. In marginal weather conditions, ten miles west of An Khe, the oil pressure dropped to zero and the smell of oil was evident in the cockpit. An emergency was declared and the aircraft was diverted to An Khe Golf Course Airfield. While on short final, the engine was shut down and the aircraft was landed without damage and also without any oil remaining. The cause of the loss of oil was that the prop governor sump plug came loose.

 

On 20 July 1969, the aircraft of the 18th Aviation Company were to be grounded until modified in accordance with TB-55-1510-205-40/1. The urgent Technical Bulletin grounded all aircraft with Spartan rebuilt R 1340-61 engines because the aluminum exhaust push rods have been proven to be subject to failure due to installation procedures during overhaul. The TB allowed 64 hours per engine modification, but due to the devotion to high standards of professional competence and performance, of the Maintenance Section lead by SGT Carl M. Cessna, SGT Jess P. Hackenburg, and supervised by CPT Dan Frost, the aircraft engines were modified with 16 man hours, thus giving the unit the required aircraft for essential missions.

256th Unit Members

Chapter 6 contains the names of all personnel assigned to the 18th Aviation Company, 163rd Medical Detachment, 256th Transportation Detachment and the 18th CAC.

1971

 

The 18th Aviation Company's use of the Otter came to an end during February 1971. By the following month, one of the Otters had been sent back to the United States and the other 13 flown to Vung Tau, where they were placed in the charge of the 388th Transportation Company, where they joined the Otters recently retired by the 54th Aviation Company. The 388th Transportation Company was responsible for disposing of all the Otters which had served in Vietnam, and did so over the following months.

 

The 18th Aviation Company along with the 256th were formally inactivated on 16 April 1971.