In a recent ceremony, CCADers said goodbye to the legacy aircraft, the UH-1H Iroquois “Huey.” CCAD employees, alongside community members and veterans, young and old, gathered on the Depot’s flight line to bid an emotional farewell to CCAD’s last Huey. The Patriot Guard Riders and the Veterans Band of Corpus Christi helped send off the Huey with a bang.

During the 1960s and 70s, Hueys were a staple workload at CCAD. Today the Depot is closing that Vietnam Era chapter to answer the needs of today’s Warfighter. Reminiscing about their days in Vietnam, veterans in the crowd noted that unforgettable sound linked to the UH-1H aircraft.

“You never forget the sound [of the Huey],” said Richard Gustafson, who served in the F Troop 8th Cavalry. To them, the Huey was seen as a lifeline in an unwelcoming land, transporting troops, delivering much needed food and supplies, and dropping into war zones to rescue soldiers.

The retirement ceremony evoked as much sadness as it did pride and nostalgia. Rafael Alvarado Jr. who joined CCAD at 18 years old, was sent to Vietnam in 1968. He said his whole life seemed to revolve around helicopters. When approached with hearing protection against the roaring Huey, Alvarado joked that he did not need them because he could simply turn off his hearing aid. After rejecting the ear plugs, he insisted that he wanted to hear the Huey one last time.

“I’ve got to take it all in,” he said. Alvarado returned to CCAD after Vietnam and worked in Airframes until he retired in 2002.

CCAD Commander, Colonel Christopher Carlile introduced Chief Warrant Officer 4 Larry Castagneto as a mentor and staunch advocate for Army Aviation, ensuring support to the ground soldier. Castagneto, who gave the send-off speech, has more than 9,000 flight hours in the Huey.

“When a Huey flies by everyone looks up,” he said. “No other aircraft evokes the same emotional impact as the Huey.”

The aircraft is headed to a base in New Jersey where it will be used for research and development. The UH-1 was officially retired by the U.S. Army in May of this year at Fort Rucker’s Aviation Center of Excellence and is being phased out.

At CCAD, 12 additional Black Hawks could be serviced in the space the Huey occupied.

“Thank you for the memories. Thank you for always being there. Thank you for always bringing us home,” Castagneto said, almost as if he was speaking personally to this disappearing link to a story that may never be fully told.

Page last updated Mon August 1st, 2011 at 11:31