"The Muleskinners Proudly Fly Again"
Greetings Muleskinners and Visitors
I'm Roger Montgomery, First Sergeant, USA Retired and I want to tell the Muleskinner history, at least from my perspective. I was not the first Muleskinner to arrive back in 1966, but as they say; "I got there as fast as I could." I joined this great "Hooker" organization at it's birth place in Fort Benning, GA. in June 1967. While it is highly desirable to tell the Muleskinner story and to honor this proud organization, there are a few things that need to be pointed out in this rendering. The current organization that proudly flies with the Muleskinner callsign is the second unit to do so. They are; B Company, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, a CH-47 Chinook (heavy lift) Company, in a General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), of the Nebraska Army National Guard. The original Muleskinner unit was the 242nd Aviation Company, later (Assault Support Helicopter Company) (ASHC), 37th Aviation Battalion, 10th Aviation Group, Fort Benning, GA. The 242nd came into being, officially on 25 October 1966 and served continuously (as the Muleskinners) until the 242nd stood down in Vietnam in October 1971. This is where our Muleskinner story takes a long break. The 242nd (numerical designation) was transferred to Alaska and replaced the 236th Aviation Company. The "powers that be" chose for whatever reason to dump the storied, proud, historic and combat tested Muleskinner callsign for "Sugar Bear." There weren't many who knew of this and what little resistance was raised was quickly put down in favor of 'the new management.' Numerically speaking, the 242nd soldiered on into the mid/late eighty's and re-designated numerous times, each time maintaining the Sugar Bear moniker. "Da Bears," currently, B Company 4-123rd Aviation did alright for themselves, no complaints here. It's just sad that they distanced themselves from the Muleskinner / Vietnam legacy. The Muleskinners, as the old saying goes; "Just faded away"...
Several years ago, as many of the 'original' Muleskinners began to retire, the kids and grand kids began to ask questions and as the military started to enjoy a greater respect and appreciation, not seen in many decades... The Muleskinners began to look back and ask; "What happened to the Muleskinners?" They started to get together personally and on the Internet and began to slowly find out the sad and ignominious ending to the story that they had so proudly started. The 'Fat Lady,' or the CH-47 Chinook helicopter was still flying, now in models D, F and soon G. So, some of us thought; Why not have Muleskinners again? So, we began to look for a home among a new generation of the young 'Hookers,' like we used to be. Our search took several years and we 'bothered' people in many locations, although that was never our intention; We just wanted to see the Muleskinner pride and legacy flourish again in the Chinook flying community of Army Aviation. Then in April 2006 we met SSG Paul McFarland and the Commander 1LT(P) Dustin Wilkie and 1SG Troy Johnson of B Co., 2-135th Aviation. They were a new 'start up' Chinook unit in need of a name/callsign and we Muleskinners, were a bunch of guys with a name/callsign (and a great legacy to share) in need of a home. It was a great fit and a new beginning, for an outstanding group of Aviation Soldiers and a great group of Aviation Veterans, who prefer to consider it a 'continuation.' So, when I say that I want to tell "A" history of the Muleskinners, that is what I mean. The Muleskinners I refer to are not bound to a numerical designation as much as they are an idea, an identity and a tradition of airlift excellence. "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow"...
This history is drawn from many sources and will be a living document, always able to add, delete or change information, as new facts are presented by the Muleskinners. If you have new information, or concerns with this 'story,' please contact SSG Mcfarland or myself.
As I stated earlier, the Muleskinners of the 242nd ASHC, started out at Fort Benning GA. in 1966. The first Commander (Muleskinner Six) was Maj. Paul L. Stansel and the first First Sergeant (Top) was 1SG. Bobby J. Morris. After activation and training began in February '67 the Muleskinners received their first aircraft in April of that year; 16 CH-47A "Chinooks" and 2 OH-23G "Ravens." After the necessary training and preparation was completed the aircraft were flown cross country to Sharp Army Depot in CA. for shipment to the Republic of Vietnam. The rest of the units equipment was sent by rail to the coast for shipment. The units personnel left Ft. Benning by C-141 'MAC' transport aircraft and the main body arrived at Bien Hoa AFB on 11 August '67. The 242nd ASHC was assigned to the 269th Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB)('Black Barons'), 12th Combat Aviation Group (CAG)('Black Jack'), 1st Aviation Brigade ('Golden Hawks'). Once settled at Honor Smith Compound in 'beautiful' down town Bien Hoa, the flight crews were attached to Chinook units for their 'in country' orientations beginning on 15 August. On 15 September the Muleskinners became operational with their primary mission being to provide direct combat support for the 25th Infantry Division. Soon thereafter, the Muleskinners suffered some of their first aircraft damage and wounds from hostile ground fire. CPT. Jackson Stevens and CW4 George Krivensky were wounded in an LZ just north of Cu Chi. The 242nd supported other units as well, throughout the III Corps tactical zone. Shortly, after arriving in country the unit implemented it's unit patch to go along with the unit callsign, MULESKINNER. I have yet to get the story of 'who' specifically came up with the design. It apparently was a collaboration of ideas. The unit patch for the 242nd ASHC Muleskinners appears on a 'shield' shaped patch with three colors; Red, Yellow and Blue which represents the Artillery, Cavalry (Armor) and Infantry that the unit supports. Foremost and centered is a kicking mule. Superimposed on the mule is the frontal image of the CH-47 Chinook aircraft the unit employs in it's mission and above all is the word "MULESKINNER" and "242nd ASH Co." There were as many variations of the units patch as there were 'mama-sans' who made them individually. The Nebraska Muleskinners, (B, 2-135th Avn.) have elected to continue the tradition of the patch. They have changed 'only' the numerical designation at the top. In addition they have placed the numbers '242' (much like a brand), on the Mules hindquarters, to pay respect for the Muleskinners 242nd ASHC 'roots.' We are again grateful to the units soldiers, for carrying on the proud Muleskinner traditions. As well, the present day Muleskinners have the 'Kicking Mule' image painted on the forward pylon of their "Hooks," another tradition carried on from the 'NAM' days. Allow me now to hit some highlights of the Muleskinner years in Vietnam service...
During it's first month of operations in country the Muleskinners set a new record for total flying hours. The Muleskinner aircraft flew 1,533 hours beating the old record by 120 hours. In October '67 the Muleskinners gave up the easy life at Bien Hoa in favor of the comforts (?) offered at Cu Chi, the headquarters of the 25th I.D. They would remain here until the 25th Infantry began redeploying to Hawaii in 1970. In February '69 tragedy struck the 242nd when a squad of enemy sappers came through the Cu Chi perimeter wire under cover of darkness and a mortar attack, totally destroying 9 Chinooks and heavily damaging others. The Muleskinners suffered one KIA and several wounded. Upon the stand down of the 269th CAB, the Muleskinners were transferred to Phu Loi and assigned to the 145th CAB and they remained here for the duration of their Vietnam years. The Muleskinners earned 11 campaign credits for the Vietnam war. The 242nd was well known throughout the III Corps area of the Republic of Vietnam for the enthusiasm with which it undertook it's daily missions and the professionalism with which these missions were completed. Missions included common tasks like artillery movement, resupply, tactical emergency resupply and 'occasional' combat assault and medevac missions. The flight environment was day and night operations, with extremes of weather and terrain conditions. In addition, some rather exotic missions were flown; Examples include moving large animals like water buffalo and swine, both internal and externally. As well, dropping large loads of tear gas and even performing duty as a 'bomber' while dropping napalm. The Muleskinners earned their 'sea legs' making landings on the aircraft carrier, HMS Sydney when the Australians began their redeployment from Vietnam in 1970. Until the Muleskinners stood down and departed Vietnam in October '71 they had flown their Chinooks well in excess of 49,000 hours anywhere and everywhere they were needed with exceptional skill, dedication and gallantry. During an average year in Vietnam, the Muleskinners carried over 70,000 tons of cargo and over 100,000 passengers while supporting troops in the battle zones of III Corps. There were during the Vietnam years, between two and three thousand soldiers who cycled through the Muleskinner organization. In the space available here, it's not possible to recognize all who participated, nor do we even have that complete list. I would however, like to list two significant groups of soldiers. First to be listed are those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in their service to the nation. The second list are all of the Company Commanders and where possible/known, their First Sergeants.
MULESKINNERS WHO PERISHED IN VIETNAM SERVICE:
SP5. Terry A. Gilbertson, KIA 28 Feb. 1968, Wisconsin
SP4. Thomas E. Dalaigle, KIA 28 Feb. 1968, Georgia
CW2. Thomas W. Duer, KIA 23 Jul. 1968, Illinois
WO1 Randy R. Wernig, KIA 23 Jul. 1968, New York
SP5. Danny E. Deese, KIA 23 Jul. 1968, Florida
SP5. Donald W. Seidel, KIA 23 Jul. 1968, Montana
SP4. Harry M. Mather, KIA 23 Jul. 1968, New Mexico
SP4. Isaac Stringer, Jr., KIA 26 Feb. 1969, Florida
SP4. Larry A. Gillaspie, KIA 26 Mar. 1969, Oregon
SP4. David P. Schultz, KIA 10 Jul. 1970, Texas
SP4. Ross E. Bedient, KIA 13 Jul. 1970, New York
SP4. Benny E. Hart, Died 4 Apr. 1971, Texas
MULESKINNER COMMANDERS / FIRST SERGEANTS:
MAJ. Paul L. Stansel/SFC. Bobby J. Morris
MAJ. Andrew N. Alford/1SG. Bobby J. Morris
MAJ. Clarence H. Keville, Jr./1SG. Bobby J. Morris
MAJ. Roy H. Herron
MAJ. Mas M. Nakajo/1SG Knott
MAJ. Allan W. Hammerbeck/1SG. George A. Miller
MAJ. Paul J. Joplin/1SG Leonard Pickhartz
MAJ. William F. Gabella
MAJ. Hayes B. Banks/1SG. George Miller
Many people have contributed their talent, sweat and even blood to make Muleskinner history. The Muleskinner legacy deserves to be remembered and honored. In the spirit of continuing the legend that was the 242nd ASHC, the Muleskinner name, patch and distinctive aircraft markings have been adopted by the soldiers of B Company 2-135th GSAB, of the Nebraska Army National Guard. The veterans and current soldiers of the Muleskinner organization stand proud. They're proud of their past and look forward to their future. The MULESKINNERS ARE FLYING AGAIN! and a new chapter in Muleskinner history is written each day...
1SG Roger G. Montgomery, USA Ret.
(Muleskinner, SP5 Crew Chief, '67-68)
Posted by Roger Montgomery
Nov 01 2006 03:33:59:000PM