By Russell Sellers, Army Flier StaffJuly 1, 2010
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Post officials honored the "Originals" of the Piper Cub Club with a plaque dedication ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum June 25.
The dedication was part of Army Aviation Association of America's tribute to the club, which began during AAAA's National Conference in April at Fort Worth, Texas.
"The original usage of the Piper Cub aircraft and the first Army liaison pilots are important pieces of Army Aviation's history," Steve Maxham, U.S. Army Aviation Museum director, said. "These light aircraft and the men who flew them established the reputation of superior aerial support Army Aviation enjoys today."
Club members are all former Army Piper Cub Aircraft pilots who served during World War II and the Korean War, Lt. Col. Randall Burke, Fort Rucker deputy chief of staff, said. Honoring these heroes is important because it lets people know about the true history behind Army Aviation, he added.
"They were the first real Army Aviators," he said. "A lot of these guys flew targeting missions for the artillery during World War II and Korea. Some have never had a chance to visit Fort Rucker before. This is a chance for the home of Army Aviation to recognize those who started Army Aviation."
Friday marked the 60th anniversary of the Korean War's beginning, he added. That war was the last time the Army used Piper Cub aircraft to fly missions.
Maj. Gen. James O. Barclay III, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, said the club members were "critical to the success of millions of aerial missions and established Army Aviation as a vital combat multiplier."
He presented the members with commemorative medallions at the Army Aviation Association of America conference in April and did so again here for members who were not able to attend the previous ceremony.
"As most pioneers are, they were brave, innovative and willing to put their lives on the line to push the limits of what their aircraft and Aviation could do in support of their country," Barclay said. "Our progress is thanks to these men who came before us and the Families who supported them."
Retired Col. Carlos Urrutia, former executive officer of airfield command and H-34 flight instructor here in 1962, said the plaque unveiling was "a wonderful experience" and "a very distinct honor."
"Through the years, we made efforts hoping Army Aviation would become a Branch," he said. "(The day it did) was a great event."
How much things had changed impressed some club members who had not visited the installation in a number of years.
Retired Capt. Art Kesten, former L-4 and L-5 pilot during World War II, and his wife, Dotty, had not visited Fort Rucker since 1987. Though they never lived on post, they both were moved by the "current status of both the Soldiers and their leaders."
"They personified professionalism in every task they performed," he said. "(The Soldiers) are a tribute to their leadership."