HA(L)-3 Mission


UPDATED: 28 Dec 04

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By Seawolf Gunner Bill Rutledge


HELICOPTER ATTACK (LIGHT) SQUADRON THREE was more than unique in that it was initially commissioned to fly cover for only the River Rats of the Brown Water Riverine Forces and the Navy SEALs but our mission was expanded to cover all friendlies in contact. We also had non aviation enlisted rates (Black Shoes) that flew as Gunners and excelled in the performance of their duties as Gunners and Crew Chiefs. We had the only U S Navy Cook to ever qualify and fly combat missions as a Door Gunner. CS1 William Johnson THE COOK was shot down twice, flew over 500 combat missions and was decorated with the Purple Heart, Single Action Air Medal for Valor, 22 Strike/Flight Air Medals, many other combat awards as well as Aircrew and Combat Aircrew Wings. Also an Australian Cook, SGT Tony Huntley flew 40 combat missions flew with us. We had administrative types that also volunteered and flew as Gunners and Crewmen.


As in every Squadron the least recognized group are the Maintenance and Support personnel,  without who, no Aircrews could have ever completed their mission. Our Ground Pounders, we considered the best, operating under arduous conditions and under the constant threat of ground, rocket and mortar attack. They, as all combat maintenance Crews accomplished the impossible which became the routine. They deserve the thanks and praise from all Pilots and Enlisted Crewmen, for without their dedication and expertise many more of us and those we supported may not have made it home.


Many of the HA(L) 3 missions flown were Covert and along with our history is sealed in a conex box in the Washington DC Naval Shipyard. Supposedly declassed in 2000, they have yet to be black lined out, alphabetized and released for viewing. Most of the Covert Missions must have been when we were over the Cambodian border, Body Snatches, (kidnapping)learned from the SEALs, or Covering the SEALs and CIA Missions.


Oh Yes, those Bravest of the Brave, those Crazy Painted Faced SEALS. They did make it exciting for the HA(L) 3 and PBR crews. I am proud to have known and serve with them on their operations as brothers in combat. Flying cover or on inserts/extractions for them made the Adrenalin, (Pucker Factor) go to 110 Percent. Am still picking webbing from the Gunners seat from my anal orifice from those whispered missions.

The following Narrative was one of those you had to of been there. This in the every day SEAL mission would be considered minor since no friendly was Killed and only one wounded.


I was attached to Seawolf, Detachment One as a temporary Gunner until relieved. We were staging out of Solid Anchor in the U Minh Forest. The SEALs had inserted early in the morning on a small canal Northwest of Solid Anchor off the Cua Lon River by boat. The mission was to set an ambush, capture several VC to interrogate and gather intel. Our two Helo Fire team stood by for the inevitable scramble while the SEALs did what they do best scaring the SH-T out of the enemy. The VC/NVA were terrified of the Painted Faces for they took the battle to them using Guerrilla tactics that filled their hearts with terror.


We were scrambled just after sunrise, the SEALs had ambushed a superior number, as usual, of VC, kicked their butts, and had one man wounded who needed a Medivac. We arrived on the scene in 15 mikes, and could see the Team, in an area that didnít have many large trees but a lot of foliage, shooting it out with the surviving VC that had escaped the ambush into the triple canopied jungle. Immediately putting in strikes on the enemy positions, we silenced their fire for the time being. There were too many tall trees for the lead bird, which I was on as the right Gunner, to go in to pull the Medivac. The SEALs started using their M 60 and were shooting into the trees at chest level to cut them down. The VC had come back and were sniping at the TEAM while we circled and fired  where the fire was coming from. The SEALs related they were running out of 60 ammo and needed what we could spare and for us to go back to Solid Anchor and bring out more ammo and SEALS.  We threw down most of our 60 ammo with a lot hanging up in the trees and put in our last rockets in on Charlie then headed back for a hot turn around and bring more ammo and Painted Faces to insert.


Back at Solid Anchor we rearmed/refueled, adding 4 cans of 60 ammo on the trail and  with the lead not carrying rockets this trip loaded two can of 60 ammo, 100 ft. of rope and 4 SEALs to insert and went back out. The outside air temp was going up when we got back and as the SEAL and Seawolf Gunners kept Charlieís head down the trail bird goes in and drops their load of ammo and then back high to cover the lead as we hover, drop our cans and threw out the rope attached to my side of the Gunship. Both of our birds are taking heavy fire and hits as the SEALs get on the Skid and rapidly start rappelling through the trees to the ground. This happened very quickly but even with the cans of ammo gone we were still overloaded and as the SEALs are going down the line my Pilots tells me we donít have much time our engine is overheating and we are going to loose it if we donít get lighter and are going to crash down on the SEALs .  I was yelling, trying to be heard over the engine and telling them to jump off the line into the trees for I was going to cut it. Our Pilot told me to cut it now or weíre going in, I did when the last SEAL was about 20 ft. above the ground, we nosed over, got fwd motion above the trees and cooled the engine, came back around and put in strikes on the VC positions and again silenced the enemy fire. The SEALs finished cutting down the trees and we hovered down into the small clearing and Medivaced the wounded man back to Solid Anchor as the rest of the Team extracted safely by boat. Knowing those Crazy Brave Bastards they were back out again that afternoon or night on another mission. They were always in the field.


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