“The best unit in the United States Army”- The 57th Assault Helicopter Company Gladiators dedicate monument on Fort Novosel

By Leslie Herlick, Fort Novosel Public AffairsOctober 11, 2023

Gladiators from the 57th Assault Helicopter Company pose in front of their new monument at Veterans Park on Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023.
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Gladiators from the 57th Assault Helicopter Company pose in front of their new monument at Veterans Park on Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023. (Photo Credit: Leslie Herlick) VIEW ORIGINAL
Gladiators remember their fallen comrades at the 57th Assault Helicopter Company memorial dedication at Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023.
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Gladiators remember their fallen comrades at the 57th Assault Helicopter Company memorial dedication at Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023. (Photo Credit: Leslie Herlick) VIEW ORIGINAL
A Vietnam Veteran from the Gladiators, 57th Assault Helicopter Company, renders a hand salute to his fallen comrades during the monument dedication ceremony at Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023.
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Vietnam Veteran from the Gladiators, 57th Assault Helicopter Company, renders a hand salute to his fallen comrades during the monument dedication ceremony at Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023. (Photo Credit: Leslie Herlick) VIEW ORIGINAL
Vietnam Veterans Steve Hayduk, former crew chief, and Ted Kearns, former company commander, remember their fallen comrades during the reading of the names of the fallen at the 57th Assault Helicopter Company monument dedication at Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023.
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Vietnam Veterans Steve Hayduk, former crew chief, and Ted Kearns, former company commander, remember their fallen comrades during the reading of the names of the fallen at the 57th Assault Helicopter Company monument dedication at Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Novosel Garrison Commander Col. John Miller shares aviation stories with Vietnam Veteran pilot Joe Sottile and crew chief Steve Hayduk during the 57th Assault Helicopter Company monument dedication at Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023.
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Fort Novosel Garrison Commander Col. John Miller shares aviation stories with Vietnam Veteran pilot Joe Sottile and crew chief Steve Hayduk during the 57th Assault Helicopter Company monument dedication at Fort Novosel on October 7, 2023. (Photo Credit: Leslie Herlick) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fort Novosel, Ala. – Saturday, October 7th was a day of pride, retrospect, and camaraderie for the men of the 57th Assault Helicopter Company, the Gladiators and their families as they gathered at Veterans Park on Fort Novosel to dedicate their new monument.

The idea for the memorial was planted by CSM (R) Mike Sutterfield when he was the Command Sergeant Major of the 1st Aviation Brigade at their 50th Anniversary banquet in 2015. The Gladiators raised funds and designed the plans. The mortality of the members came into play when many of them became ill or died since then. Steve Hayduk, former Specialist 5 and crew chief for the Gladiators, CW4 (R) Joe Sottile, a pilot in the unit, and Gary Neely, also a pilot in the unit, kicked their plan into high gear after a motorcycle trip to Gettysburg.

Hayduk said that this monument, “is a tribute to all of our brothers who served together, and only those of us who served together understand what it means to be a Gladiator.” He also added, “It’s also a tribute to every one of our men who were killed in action.”

“The proudest thing I have ever done in my life was to have been a member of the Gladiators of the 57th Assault Helicopter Company.”

Maj. Ted Kearns, former commander of the 57th Assault Helicopter Company, echoed Hayduk’s sentiments during his remarks as he reminisced about the unit’s time in Vietnam. He said, “It’s the best unit in the United States Army.”

The 57th Assault Helicopter Company was reorganized from an Airmobile Fixed Wing Company to an Assault Helicopter Company on 10 February 1967, falling under the 1st Aviation Brigade, 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion. The unit deployed to Kontum, Vietnam in October of 1967, providing support to II Corps units, to include 5th Special Forces Group, (ABN), 4th Infantry Division, 1st Field Forces, and MACV and ARVN units, flying UH-1H Huey and UH-1 Cobra helicopters, serving there until March of 1973 when it was inactivated.

The Gladiators performed gallantly in Vietnam, earning the Presidential Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Commendation, three Republic of Vietnam Crosses of Gallantry, and the Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Honor Medal. This unit also performed many secret missions in not only Vietnam, but in Laos and Cambodia. Hayduk said that the Gladiators were the precursor to special operations aviation in the US Army.

The war took its toll, however, as the Gladiators lost 44 men between 1967 and 1972. The names of these men are carved on the back of the memorial.

Col. John Miller, garrison commander, was honored to attend the dedication. He said, “to see this group of heroes come together and show the connection and bond that they built through their service to this country and see that sustained as they come home to the Home of Army Aviation is a true honor. We are very excited to help remember them.”

As the seasoned Gladiators admired the monument, some with tears in their eyes, the pride and reverence of the young Soldiers that deployed to Vietnam all those years ago shined through.

Hayduk said of the monument, “This is ours now. Forever. And when we’re all gone, it will always be here.”