19. My First Flight in Country A Gunship Scramble By Andre Garesche

I arrived at the 134th in July 1970 and was assigned a room. My roommate, whom I hadn't even met yet, Dan Brown, was out on a slick mission. Not knowing where to go or what to do I grabbed the free bunk and took a nap. After a while someone came in and woke me up. A tall lanky guy with a clipboard who told me I was assigned to the gun platoon. He wanted to know what I wanted for a call sign. I said I didn't know and asked him what his was. He said Devil 47, (it was Mark Igoe). I said how about Devil 46. He told me it had to be an odd number so I bumped it down to Devil 45 and that is how I got my call sign. He also told me that I had an orientation flight in the morning.

The next morning I was down at operations waiting. Patrick Pavey was the pilot I was going up with and it was in the chunker ship (019). We cranked up and took off north from Phu Hiep and he explained the low-level Vagabond crossing over Tuy Hoa's active runway. Patrick had a wry sense of humor and as we flew along he said, That's a tree, those are mountains, that's a river, that's the ocean... and you've got it, and with that he gave me the controls.

He said we were going up to Qui Nhon for some lunch. I glanced back and the crew chief and door gunner were asleep. Patrick yawned and stretched and casually reached up to pull the old circuit breaker trick to see if I was watching my guages. Before he even pulled it I told him I was familiar with the trick but never mentioned that I had gone to Gunnery I. P. school. He just shrugged and got comfortable and started to dose off.

Now, imagine my first flight time in Vietnam and I'm up there with three guys asleep. Patrick had told me to just follow the coast and that is what I did. I was just about to where the sunken Japanese ship is when the radios lit up. Patrick sat up immediately and took the controls. There were troops in contact and we were getting a mid-air scramble since we were closest. We did a 180 and headed south towards the river. In a split second the whole crew had snapped to from what I call Nam sleep. You are always half awake!

The friendlies were on the north side of the river and the enemy on the south. Patrick asked if I had ever fired a chunker before and I told him that I had. I could tell he was nervous about letting me use the weapon because he explained everything twice as to where to fire and that he was turning my radios off and putting me on AFVN. I guess he thought it would keep me calm. So on my first hot gun run in Vietnam I was listening to Time Won't Let Me by the Outsiders. Some things you never forget.

They taught me a little trick at I.P school. If you role the chunker tube up a little and fire six rounds slowing rollng the tube down, the rounds all land at once. It is sort of like a mini-B-52 strike. The rounds landed exactly where he wanted them. It certainly impressed Patrick because he screamed for me to do that again and again. Even the crew was impressed because they were shouting on the intercom. It's difficult to keep in order but when its working the chunker is very devastating and unnerving to the enemy. The ground troops even commented on it.

We expended our ordinance and another gun team was nearly there so we headed home. Patrick said he would do the post flight and would meet me at the Officer's Club. On his way to the club he went by the Operations and pulled my file which indicated that I had been to Gunnery I.P. School. He jokingly gave me a hard time about not telling him. We sat and talked for a long time. Turned out it was his birthday. I had had a pretty full day myself.
AM Def Ser Cam
Last modified: Friday March 17th, 2023