By Spc. Tracy R. WeedenFebruary 18, 2010
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - In July 1970, the 101st Aviation Group, currently the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, was awarded the Valorous Unit Award in Thua Thein Province, Vietnam, for their success in extracting personnel and materiel from Fire Support Base Ripcord.
On July 1, the North Vietnamese Army began their assault on Firebase Ripcord, with mortar and small arms fire.
The 101st Aviation Group began transporting troops, and airlifting urgently needed supplies onto Firebase Ripcord, despite heavy enemy fire.
Throughout the attacks, the 101st Aviation Group was called upon to deliver necessary ammunition and supplies, while transporting casualties and troops. At the same time, they were directed to perform combat assaults in order to oppose the escalation of enemy forces.
After approximately 20 days under constant attack it had become imperative to extract units and equipment. With guidance from the commander and Tactical Operation Center of 3rd Brigade, the commander of 101st Aviation Group slated the mission to promptly remove artillery and equipment followed immediately by the extraction of troops from the firebase.
Maintenance personnel were ordered to have utmost aircrafts in
flyable condition, while pilots received a thorough briefings based on information gathered by the Aviation Group's intelligence. Strict flight routes and downed aircraft procedures were explained.
The mission required 52 lift helicopters, along with AH-1G Cobras to escort and provide suppressive fire for the extraction.
The suppressive fire of the AH-1G Cobra was successful in preventing the enemy from destroying aircrafts during this extraction, even though the enemy position was no more than 100 meters south of the pick-up zone.
Throughout the entire equipment move, the pathfinders constantly exposed themselves to hostile fire in order to direct the landing of each aircraft and to hook up loads being extracted.
For their actions, all pathfinders on Firebase Ripcord were awarded the Silver Star.
During the extraction of the 506th Infantry, the pilots faced many challenges. They were required to hover down through thick trees over rough terrain while troops boarded.
Some aircrafts landed to find that troops were not waiting to board because of the intensity of mortar fire and had to hover to another pad closer to the TOC bunker.
Throughout the operation 30 aircrafts received intensive fire; eight CH-47 Chinooks were hit and one destroyed; two AH-1G Cobras and 12
UH-1H Hueys were hit.
A total of eight crew members and two pathfinders received wounds as a result of hostile fire.
As an outcome of the actions taken by maintenance personnel, commanders, and staff, combined with acts of heroism by flight crews and pathfinders, this operation was a success. Had it not been for the expertise, commitment, and selfless service of 101st Aviation Group, extraction of troops and equipment from besieged Firebase Ripcord could not have been completed with such minimal loses of men and materials.