As the platoon sergeant for the 2nd Brigade LRRP's I took serious my responsibility to make
sure my men received any support that was needed. The platoon was made up of a series of
small teams that would be taken to remote areas in the jungle to gather intelligence and
harass the enemy. These were well trained fighting men, but a team in trouble, could not
afford to wait hours for help.
It was 3AM in the morning when the radio operator woke me up with concern and urgency in his voice. "Sarg, WAKE UP. Sgt. Lee's team is in contact and one of his men is wounded badly."
I jumped up and put on my gear. At the time we were camped next to the runway, so I ran down the runway to where the helicopter pilots were bunked. I woke up a couple of pilots and quickly explained I had a LRRP team in trouble. Without hesitation, we climbed into a helicopter, started it up and lifted off without even getting clearance.
Although I had flown over this terrain on numerous occasions it had never looked so ominous. The rugged mountains that we flew around during daylight now just blended into the black sky. I really admired the willingness of the two pilots to fly at night. They demonstrated compassion and the willingness to risk all for another American soldier. As the pilots trusted their instruments to navigate in the darkness, I realized I would have to trust them, as the team was trusting me to do my job.
Once in the air, I made radio contact with Sgt. Lee. He explained the team was set in their night position. Sgt. Lee said a noise woke him up and he was startled to see someone walking into their night location. Believing his team was in danger, he opened fire.
To Sgt. Lee's surprise the intruder turned out to be his own man who while on guard stepped away to relieve himself. The soldier was hit in both legs and Sgt. Lee was concerned he would bleed to death. I tried to calm Sgt. Lee by assuring him we were on our way and the wounds may not be as bad as they appeared.
The team carried the wounded teammate to the best area they could find in the darkness. Sgt. Lee explained the area was very small but it would have to do. Plus if Charlie (VC) were in the area they had to be aware something was going on. The odds were stacked against us but time was of great importance as a man's life was at stake.
When we got close, Sgt. Lee turned on his strobe light and we flew to their location. Once we located the team, the pilots circled several times debating whether they could get down to help them. Looking down we could only see the strobe light. If the pilot should lower us into an unseen tree, we could all be dead or wounded. They ask Sgt. Lee to get his men to walk north, south, then east and west counting the distance of the opening in the canopy of the jungle.
Once they got this information they informed me it was one in ten chance we could do it but they were going to go for it. What made it worse was we were alone with no backup gun ships to help if we received fire from the ground.
The pilot told Sgt. Lee to place the strobe light in the center of the landing zone. They also told him to guide us as though he were guiding a crane operator lowering delicate equipment. He was basically their eyes as to the position of the rotor blades.
The pilot brought the chopper to a hover over the strobe light below and things were quiet as the pilots communicate back and forth and with Sgt. Lee. It was really intense. My heart was racing. The chopper started to ease down very slowly into the black hole below. We could not even see the trees. All we could see was the strobe light like a small beacon in the night.
As he descended the chopper was rocking back and forth and sort of up and down. Then the treetops came into view as we came closer to the jungle floor. The pilot got as close as he could without landing and held it in a hover as the door gunners and myself reached down to get the wounded in first. We had to literally drag him up. To do this two of us knelt and holding to the sides of the door with the other gunner behind us as anchor. We then pulled the remaining team members in one at a time. With everyone on board, the pilots gingerly lifted us out.
Finally clearing the tree tops we were off to the field hospital where we dropped the wounded. Then back to the airstrip where we were camped.
We were all exhausted but thankful this night was behind us.
I am sorry that I do not remember the names of the two pilots so I can record their names with this heroic feat. As a LRRP we were authorized to wear camouflage fatigues and a distinctive Australian Bush Hat. We were extremely proud of this uniform and what it stood for. But for the moment, allow me to tip my LRRP hat to these two pilots and all the others who supported us as LRRP's. We depended on them for firepower in contact. They were our life line when it got to hot on the ground. They risk their lives to enter hot LZ's when we needed out.
This is a true story. I share this story so others can understand the camaraderie one soldier feels for another when brave men in a hostile environment will risk everything to save another. I dedicate this story to the two pilots, all who have served our country and especially those who gave all ... their lives. This story should not to be used without permission from the author.
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