Vietnam vets share experiences during Aviation seminar
June 21, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (June 21, 2012) -- The differences in the Army of today compared to the Army that fought in the Vietnam War are vast, but Soldiers of today on Fort Rucker had the opportunity to learn from the veterans who fought during that time.
Hundreds of Soldiers, veterans and retired military personnel gathered at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum June 18 for the first of the Army Aviation Seminar Series to participate in discussions with a panel of veterans of the Vietnam War to encourage an ongoing professional discussion of Army Aviation history and employment, allowing the Branch's senior leaders, both retired and active duty, and combat veterans to interact with the Branch's newest Soldiers, said Maj. Terry Brooks, Doctrine Branch Aviation chief of the Directorate of Training and Doctrine.
"I wanted to share some of the experiences I had in my time," said retired CW4 Bruce Miller, Aviation History Seminar panel member and Vietnam veteran. "I want to try and temper some of the eagerness of the younger Soldiers."
Miller piloted a UH-1 and participated in air assaults, resupply and personnel movement support missions in Vietnam as a part of the 195th Assault Helicopter Aviation Company, 222nd Combat Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade.
The former UH-1 pilot said he wanted to help bring Soldiers' enthusiasm down to a reasonable level as a way to get them to have more rational thinking when piloting an aircraft.
The panel also included retired Lt. Gen. Tom Fields, who participated in over 200 combat air assaults; retired Col. Ev Roper, who flew OH-6 scout helicopters; retired Col. Sam Hurt, who participated in battles over An Loc and Loc Ninh; retired Lt. Col. Dick Baker, who served as Aviation maintenance officer with the 101st Airborne Division; and retired CW4 Ron Manning, who served as a tech supply officer, and flew combat assaults and combat support.
The seminar was an open discussion where people in attendance asked questions to the panel members ranging from the differences in the Army of today, to individual experiences the veterans had during the Vietnam War.
"The big difference in the Army of today is that we now have a volunteer Army and it's very, very good," said Hurt. "It's probably the best Army this nation has known in terms of quality."
Hurt called today's Army "volunteer" because he said today people have a choice to join the Army, but during his time, many were drafted into the Vietnam War. He said he wanted the Soldiers in attendance to learn from the history and experiences of those that fought before them to help them become the leaders of tomorrow.
"I want them to learn a little bit of the history, but more importantly, the ethic of being an Aviation Soldier," he said. "I want them to learn about remaining flexible in terms of tactics and being open minded when it comes to training. I want them to take the experience they've got and go out there to be great company commanders and platoon leaders."
Other topics discussed during the seminar were the advancement of technology in today's Armed forces and the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.
Manning said he thought the UAS were a tremendous idea and compared the differences in reconnaissance.
"When we took fire in an aircraft, we threw smoke out to [plot] where the fire was coming from," he said, adding that they would use the dropped smoke to plot where the enemy was on the ground as to know to avoid the area if necessary.
Other panel members, like Miller, thought that the Army is relying too much on technology and believed that more human interaction is required in regards to reconnaissance.
"There's got to be a balance," he said. "The challenge you have as future leaders is how to do that well."
To see the young Soldiers actively participate in the discussion and ask questions to the panel members was a welcome sight, said Hurt.
"It was good to see all the young [Soldiers] come out here," he said "I think the future is bright and they've got a lot of hard challenges in front of them and I think they will do well."