By Maj. Jason BillingtonMay 20, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. - The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence community welcomed members of the 13th Combat Aviation Battalion (Delta) this past weekend to celebrate their biennial reunion here.
About 200 Vietnam veterans from the 164th Group, 1st Aviation Brigade were in attendance.
Combat units such as 121st Assault Helicopter Company "Tigers," 175th Assault Helicopter Company "Cowboys," 162nd Assault Helicopter Company "Vultures" and the 135th Assault Helicopter Company "Emus" were hosted by 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment, Fort Rucker's present-day unit that claims such historic lineage.
The veterans and their Families were treated to tours of various sites around the post, where they were able to observe where Army Aviation has come in the last 40 years from the waters of the Mekong Delta to the creation of today's Aviation warfighter.
Amidst the weekend's educational components, the 13th CAB members shared their stories of days gone by and recollections of brothers who had been to war and lived to tell the tales.
The festivities kicked off Saturday with a picnic at Yano Hall - a facility that was in use during Aviators' training during the Vietnam War.
First Bn., 13th Avn. Regt., Soldiers shared stories with the veterans and presented some of Army Aviation's newest equipment, including the Tactical Airspace Integration System, Mobile Tower Operating System and Air Warrior ensemble.
The 110th Aviation Brigade supported the event as well with informative static displays of the OH-58 Kiowa, UH-1 Huey, UH-60 Black Hawk and CH-47 Chinook.
Maj. Gen. James O. Barclay III, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general, and Aviation Branch Command Sgt. Maj. Tod L. Glidewell stopped by to welcome the group and mingle with the veterans.
One of Saturday's highlights was Huey flights offered to veterans and their Families by the Army Aviation Heritage Association from Atlanta.
For some Family members, it was the first opportunity to ride in the aircraft that had served as their loved ones' chariot to and from Vietnam War battles.
The evening brought the 13th CAB to The Landing for a capstone reunion banquet. The Fort Rucker Color Guard and 98th Army Band participated in the event and Brig. Gen. Kelly Thomas, USAACE and Fort Rucker deputy commanding general, opened the ceremony.
Thomas praised the sacrifices of the Vietnam veterans and assured that future reunions would always be welcomed and supported at Fort Rucker, their "home." During the banquet, the veterans watched a video about 1st Bn., 13th Avn. Regt.'s current mission.
Stan Gausse, former logistics and Aviator for 162nd Assault Helicopter Company, provided a comprehensive history of the venerated Delta Battalion's contributions in Vietnam.
The first Army Aviation astronaut, Robert Stewart, infused humor and first-hand perspectives on space travel during his headline speech.
He elaborated how his one and only chance at a spacewalk was affected by a 15-cent button on his space suit that vexed his seven-hour experience outside the space shuttle.
Despite the uncomfortable, grueling ordeal, he said it was an experience he "wouldn't trade for the world."
Sunday morning, CW4 Larry Castagneto, former UH-1 pilot with 162nd Assault Helicopter Company and now 1st Bn., 13th Avn. Regt. safety officer, led reunion attendees in a memorial service at Veterans Park for their fallen comrades who never came home from Vietnam.
Col. Timothy Edens, USAACE chief of staff, reinforced that the 13th CAB's sacrifices would not be forgotten and current Aviation warfighters owe them a debt of gratitude for bringing Army Aviation where it is today.