25. Thoughts From 268th Battalion Commander, MG Orlando Gonzales

Written in an e mail to Jean Cowan on June 2, 2005. I note that the 134th Reunion starts tomorrow. I know it will be outstanding--right in line with everything the 134th did during my tenure as battalion commander of the 268th Combat Aviation Battalion. During that time we ran some 8 or 9 of the largest Combat Assaults (CA's) that were conducted in Vietnam outside of the two Airmobile Divisions. They were all planned and organized by a subsequent 134th Commander, Major Chuck Teeter (now MG Retired Teeter) who was my Battalion Operations Officer during that period, and on all of them, the 134th pulled more than their share of the load and earned the admiration and respect of all of us who were fortunate enough to be associated with them. Please pass my fond regard, respect and best wishes for a great reunion to some very great troops.

If Chuck Teeter (Lightning 3 and subsequently Demon 6) and Bob Chamberlain (Devil 6) are there, tell them hello for me, but if CWO Michael Schuster is in attendance, tell him that the battalion commander who almost got him killed thinks of him frequently and retains an unforgettable mental picture of his aircraft, upside down in a ball of fire and smoke with only the skids visible and pieces of rotor blades flying off in all directions. I had told the 134th Flight Leader to go into that LZ cold, no prep, after Chuck Teeter and I had gone down and hovered around and attracted no fire and observed no enemy activity. I was afraid of hitting friendlies if I let the Devil gunships prep the LZ, you see. The Korean battalion commander that was working his way up the ridge refused to set off the colored smoke grenade to mark his positions for us as had been approved by the regimental commander the night before.

By the time Chuck and I had finished looking over the LZ, and I gave the 134th Flight Lead the ok to go in, he was already on a go-around a s was the #2 aircraft in the stick. Schuster, who was #3 came on the air, said he was in position to complete the approach and put troops on the ground to secure the LZ. Both the Flight Leader and I gave him a go and thinking everything well in hand, I headed out to the next LZ insertion.

As I was climbing out, I looked back right when CWO Schuster's aircraft detonated the booby trap that I had not detected by hovering over the LZ. I yelled out, Oh God!! They got him!! and immediately went into a bank to go back down. Before I completed the turn, the pilot of #4 aircraft in the 134th stick came on the air and said; Sir, I see people moving down there and I am in good position to complete my approach may I go in and insert my troops and take out the wounded? I said Do It!, but what I was thinking was God bless you son!. #5 came right in behind him and the Flight Leader and #2 closed so unbelievably quick that Chuck Teeter and I had nothing to do but pull pitch and go on to the next insertion.
AM Def Ser Cam
Last modified: Friday March 17th, 2023