Reunion info for Ravens is on the Ravens Only Page
TO: All Air Commandos
FROM: Air Commando Journal Editor-in-Chief
SUBJECT: The Air Commando Journal Needs Your Help
The Air Commando Journal is always looking for a few good articles that tell the our story past and present. You may not think of yourself as a “writer,” many of us don’t. The good news is you are not alone–most amateur writers feel the same way. What should you write about, then? Your experiences and what you know.
If you’ve been an Air Commando, even for a few years, you likely have plenty of experiences that theACJ audience would be interested in reading. Still, don’t think you write well enough? That’s OK because the ACJ staff has several outstanding editors who would love to assist you with your project.
The inaugural issue of the Air Commando Journal was published in September 2011 with a foreword by, then, Air Force Chief of Staff, General Norton Schwartz. The reader response to that issue, and since, has been outstanding. The ACA has published a total of 24 journals. Each issue is handcrafted and filled with articles written by Air Commandos, past and present, to enjoy and learn the rich heritage borne by our founders during World War II in Europe, China-India-Burma and all the places Air Commandos have served and continue today. Almost all of the articles have come from folks like you and that is what makes our journal ‘sing.”
We have attached a link to the Air Commando Journal on the ACA webpage for your convenience to review all of the past journals. We also listed several themes we are considering for future editions of the magazine, but don’t let those restrict you. If you have a good story to tell, we love to have extra articles and try to use them all.
In closing, this year we are celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Air Commando and also the 50thanniversary of the Air Commando Association. We want to keep journal vibrant, relevant, and reflective of our heritage. We all appreciate the ethos of the “Quiet Professional,” but we need your help in telling our story so others may be inspired to continue the Air Commando legacy far into the future. Many thanks for your consideration.
Any Time-Any Place!
Editor in Chief, Air Commando Journal
Hard-copy manuscripts can be mailed to: Air Commando Journal, P.O. Box 7, Mary Esther, FL 32569-0007. However, we prefer that they be submitted electronically to: email@example.com. We use MS-Word. We also appreciate accompanying photos. Photos should be high resolution (300 dpi) and must indicate the source, have a release for use, and a brief description. If your submission is copyrighted, we will indicate that on the article. For more information or help please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Larry Ratts says:
We were wimps. Here is a REAL fac.
Lloyd– I just got this from Dunc.
If you agree, want to add it to the web page somewhere?
VIETNAMESE IMMIGRANT — Well Done, The difference between legal and illegal. This is something everyone in America should read…. It looks like we did some good after all!
On Saturday, July 24th, 2010 the town of Prescott Valley, AZ, hosted a Freedom Rally. Quang Nguyen was asked to speak on his experience of coming to America and what it means. He spoke the following in dedication to all Vietnam Veterans. Thought you might enjoy hearing what he had to say:
35 years ago, if you were to tell me that I am going to stand up here speaking to a couple thousand patriots, in English, I’d laugh at you. Man, every morning I wake up thanking God for putting me and my family in the greatest country on earth. I just want you all to know that the American dream does exist and I am living the American dream. I was asked to speak to you about my experience as a first generation Vietnamese-American, but I’d rather speak to you as an American
If you hadn’t noticed, I am not white and I feel pretty comfortable with my people. I am a proud U.S citizen and here is my proof. It took me 8 years to get it, waiting in endless lines, but I got it, and I am very proud of it.
I still remember the images of the Tet offensive in 1968, I was six years old. Now you might want to question how a 6-year-old boy could remember anything. Trust me, those images can never be erased. I can’t even imagine what it was like for young American soldiers, 10,000 miles away from home, fighting on my behalf.
35 years ago, I left South Vietnam for political asylum. The war had ended At the age of 13, I left with the understanding that I may or may not ever get to see my siblings or parents again I was one of the first lucky 100,000 Vietnamese allowed to come to the U.S. Somehow, my family and I were reunited 5 months later, amazingly, in California. It was a miracle from God.
If you haven’t heard lately that this is the greatest country on earth, I am telling you that right now. It was the freedom and the opportunities presented to me that put me here with all of you tonight. I also remember the barriers that I had to overcome every step of the way. My high school counselor told me that I cannot make it to college due to my poor communication skills. I proved him wrong. I finished college. You see, all you have to do is to give this little boy an opportunity and encourage him to take and run with it. Well, I took the opportunity and here I am.
This person standing tonight in front of you could not exist under a socialist/communist environment. By the way, if you think socialism is the way to go, I am sure many people here will chip in to get you a one-way ticket out of here. And if you didn’t know, the only difference between socialism and communism is an AK-47 aimed at your head. That was my experience.
In 1982, I stood with a thousand new immigrants, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and listening to the National Anthem for the first time as an American. To this day, I can’t remember anything sweeter and more patriotic than that moment in my life.
Fast forwarding, somehow I finished high school, finished college, and like any other goofball 21 year old kid, I was having a great time with my life I had a nice job and a nice apartment in Southern California. In some way and somehow, I had forgotten how I got here and why I was here.
One day I was at a gas station, I saw a veteran pumping gas on the other side of the island. I don’t know what made me do it, but I walked over and asked if he had served in Vietnam. He smiled and said yes. I shook and held his hand. This grown man’s eyes began to well up. I walked away as fast as I could and at that very moment, I was emotionally rocked. This was a profound moment in my life. I knew something had to change in my life. It was time for me to learn how to be a good citizen. It was time for me to give back.
You see, America is not just a place on the map, it isn’t just a physical location. It is an ideal, a concept. And if you are an American, you must understand the concept, you must accept this concept, and most importantly, you have to fight and defend this concept This is about Freedom and not free stuff. And that is why I am standing up here
Brothers and sisters, to be a real American, the very least you must do is to learn English and understand it well. In my humble opinion, you cannot be a faithful patriotic citizen if you can’t speak the language of the country you live in. Take this document of 46 pages – last I looked on the Internet, there wasn’t a Vietnamese translation of the U.S. Constitution. It took me a long time to get to the point of being able to converse and until this day, I still struggle to come up with the right words. It’s not easy, but if it’s too easy, it’s not worth doing
Before I knew this 46-page document, I learned of the 500,000 Americans who fought for this little boy. I learned of the 58,000 names inscribed on the black wall at the Vietnam Memorial. You are my heroes. You are my founders.
At this time, I would like to ask all the Vietnam veterans to please stand. I thank you for my life. I thank you for your sacrifices, and I thank you for giving me the freedom and liberty I have today. I now ask all veterans, firefighters, and police officers, to please stand. On behalf of all first generation immigrants, I thank you for your services and may God bless you all.
Caddis Advertising, LLC
“God Bless America”
“One Flag, One Language, One Nation Under God”
Reunion 2018 pictures
Spike Milam Writes: This was a first for me, and I suspect a first for any presenter.
Adora Kiatoukaysy, top recipient of Raven Scholarship, asked to speak after the presentation and, acknowledging that, I, had provided a good summary of the Hmong’s role in the Vietnam Conflict and the hardships and suffering of the Hmong after they were left to fend for themselves when the Americans (CIA) pulled out of Laos, she read the following:
Hello, I wanted to say a few words to Colonel Milam and the Ravens. I wanted to thank Colonel Milam for coming all this way here to present this award to me. This award means a lot to me as I`m very glad, the Ravens have still remembered what my people have done for America. In you didn’t know, during the Vietnam War, the Hmong people helped the American CIA in a war called the Secret War, a war kept a secret from the United States. Because of this, the story of the Hmong people is still not very well known in the world.
The CIA asked the Hmong people to help them fight the Communist. In this war, the Ravens, had supported and fought together with the Hmong people. The Ravens were very brave pilots who flew their aircrafts gathering information in order to help the Hmong people fight against the Communist.
After the war, when the Americans pulled out, the Hmong people were left with no place to call home, but the American CIA told the Hmong people you come to America. But yet many do not know the struggles and sacrifices it took for my parents, my grandparents, and Hmong people to come here today as they had to face many dangers such as crossing the Mekong River and running through the jungles of Laos while being hunted by the Communist. Even today, the tragedy still lives on. Because not many realize the suffering and the tragedy of the Hmong, I`m thankful towards the Ravens who do know and acknowledge the sacrifices my people gave.
Thank you Raven’s for giving me this scholarship. This scholarship’s true value isn`t the money, but the meaning behind it. Thank you for remembering the Hmong people, being a part of the reason why we are able to be in America, and assisting the futures of the 1st generation of Hmong in America. I will use this money in my educational journey and become a good citizen who gives back to the community. Again, thank you for letting the Hmong and Raven legacy live through me. Please help me in giving a big round of applause to honor our Ravens.
Guest Book for Growth’s obituary.
Some of the A-10 guys at D-M are looking at a Memorial for Growth on 22 Jun. Here’s their plan:
18 May update:
Growth’s Memorial is set for Davis-Monthan on 22 June. Probably in the afternoon /evening, probably at the O‘Club. They are trying to work a fly-by.
Further details will only be sent to those planning to attend. Use the contact page for any questions.
<<> Gents – I’d like to start an email chain to coordinate a possible celebration of Growth here at the 47FS, DMAFB. My thoughts:
> There ought to be a gathering of Ravens, A-10 pilots, FACs and anyone else that wants to come to DMAFB to tell Growths story, celebrate his contributions to Close Air Support, have a missing man flyby, and then get shitfaced.
> Before we set any date or start detailed planning, we need:
> 1. Susan’s blessing
> 2. Coordination with:
> – The Ravens (Al Galante)
> – The 706th bubbas (Spidey)
> – The DMAFB crowd (Tito)
> Thoughts about the event so far:
> – No earlier than 3 weeks from the day we announce it so folks can make plans
> – Not sure if there’s a No Later Than, but May or June seems right. July is not an option for the 47th (TDY).
> – Friday if possible
> – Would love to have the Ravens exchange stories with the young A-10 pilots. I know Growth had that in mind for a Raven reunion he was thinking about having here.
> – Not crazy about anything too formal.
> That’s all for now. Looking for your inputs.
> I don’t know that there’s been a more decorated/ distinguished American CAS pilot.
> – Tito>>
They want your inputs—Can you make it? Date OK? Better date? , time, location, need rooms, transport, etc.
Please provide inputs to: Tito, email@example.com
Info copy to firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
Sorry for the shitty formatting. I hate this laptop & will be on it for the next several days.
I have just watched a documentary about the Ravens and I am at a loss for words. The entire physical and emotional spectrum of the experience of war, from every angle and in any dimension, embodied by a single hidden conflict. They say that you die twice. Once when you pass, and once when the last person who remembers you passes. So your annual memorial gatherings are particularly moving for me. It’s part of Greek custom too.
And as a Greek, your relationship with the Mong, and the deep connection with them at your Thermopylae, resonated deeply. The documentary I saw was a bit dated. Did Ravens ever return to Laos again and finally visit Long Chen? Have you met with the Mong? Pardon my long unsolicited email sir; but the Ravens story touched me very deeply – way beyond the fact that I was a Biggles nut as a kid and that FAC was just next level! Slow planes drawing fire with pilots conducting a battle concerto from on high. It’s almost mythical! And the humanity of those mythical men … those honest, humble, loyal, true good men … swooping like Ravens and loving a tribe of people with such warm intention, amidst the madness of war, will forever remain with me. And, when I have my own home with a fireplace again, one day I too will fling an empty wine glass inside it, and albeit even for a moment in the memory of a stranger in South Africa, all the Ravens will live again.
Best Regards and Deepest Thanks
South Africa >>
From Mike Kelly
WHAT A RELIEF!
One of the secrets of the mighty O-1 Bird Dog 2 seater forward air controller aircraft was the control stick in the rear seat. The stick was used for a instructor pilot to teach a new pilot and in combat the back seater just might save the aircraft and the 2 occupants in an emergency. The stick had no electronic connections or buttons like most joy sticks. It was simply a hallow 32 inch pipe about 1 and half inches in diameter. The stick could easily be removed by a spring loaded knob with a pin to secure the stick. Just pull the knob out and you could remove the stick. It was a good idea to take the stick out when hauling cases of beer and soda. One of our FACs (forward air controller) killed himself by forgetting to remove the stick and 12 cases of beer fell in between the stick and the back seat pushing the aircraft straight into the ground. When we flew with a local person in combat with no English we would take the stick out so there was no breakdown in communication.
A normal O-1 Bird Dog mission was about 4 hours and it is a tight cockpit with not much wiggle room. There is no relief tube like in fighter planes so often nature will call in a 4 hour time frame so that hallow stick in the back becomes very useful as an emergency relief tube. So here is the procedure in flight. Unstrap and unbuckle the seat belt and let the aircraft just bob and weave on its own and turn around in the front seat and reach over into the back and release the lock pin by the knob at the base of the stick. The plane does just fine without input on the controls in combat anyway.
Now here comes the tricky part. You need to hold the stick exactly 3 inches away. Any further and you pee on your hand any closer in the bouncing aircraft and you jab your wee wee with the jagged end of the stick. Ouch. Also you need to hold the stick about 6 inches from the top. When your hand gets warm STOP. You may need to repeat this procedure 2 or 3 times to get the job done. The next challenge is empting the tube. There is a window on each side of the aircraft so if you leave both windows open and empty the tube you will learn about an Italian named Venturi. The law of physics prevails and the pee will whip around the plane and give you a golden shower you really don’t need. Closing one window is a great idea.
If you are being shot at during this ordeal you will have the satisfaction that you are giving the enemy some return fire.
Author: Mike Cavanaugh
From Craig Bradford:
I got this from Craig Bradford. Can you get it on the News page?
After 10 years of political war with the City of Crescent City (until this last General Election, the City Council was politically far Left of center and unabashed haters of Veterans), today saw the long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony for our Veterans’ Memorial Monument. Our small committee with IRS Code 501(c)(3) tax status to legally collect donations began the construction phase of this $700,000 monument project for Del Norte County’s Veterans. The monument is an array of 5 tall obelisks representing each of the 5 military services. Starting at the center of a huge round concrete pie, each obelisk will stand at the pointed end a flat concrete section containing (in turn) U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard in embedded brass letters. The obelisks crafted from beautiful marble will feature names of dead American Veterans who were associated with each of the military service branches. Their names will be carved into the marble. The U.S. Air Force section (flat concrete portion) is not empty like the others. The USAF section will host a vertical Hmong Veteran monument anchored to the widest portion of the section (near the outer ring). Carved in darker marble is the name of each Hmong Army Veteran who was a member of a Hmong family that is currently residing in Del Norte County. (Aren’t any names of Hmong Air Force pilots, unfortunately.) Concrete benches surround the entire monument pie. Tall flag poles will stand outside of each section with the U.S. Flag at the top and the associated military service flag just below. Lighting systems around the area will shine on each flag. Unfortunately the Hmong do not have a flag, so we’re considering using the now defunct ensign of the Kingdom of Laos. I brought a relatively small Lao flag home with me that was a gift from King Sri Souvang Vatthana, but I’m sure the Hmong wives here can make one that is the right size. When he lived in Southern California, General Vang Pao used to visit my family in Las Vegas at times. He explained to us that he persuaded all Hmong refugees to assimilate fully with the American culture and refrain from flying a Hmong flag inside the U.S. Maybe they will design one at some point in the future, although it is possible that such has been done already. If so, we’d like to know about it. Project completion is slated for December or next Spring. (We get around 100 inches of rain during the winter months. I live in Hiouchi, some 12 miles to the northeast of Crescent City on the Smith River and at much higher elevation. We received 150 inches of precipitation last winter. If you like to fish for steelhead, this is the place to do it.)
When my wife and I came here in 1999 from Las Vegas, only 214 Hmong individuals lived in Crescent City. Now there are over 1,000 with more coming every month. Perhaps not so significant a number in a large metropolitan area, but this geographically vast rural county only sports a population of 27,000. Some 1,900 of those are “guests” of the infamous Pelican Bay State Prison.
Today’s ceremony was well attended. We had a large number of elected State and local officials, and especially distinguished Hmong officers from the NSDF in Salem, Oregon and Sacramento/Fresno, California. The senior Hmong officer in the photo is the Chief of Staff for the NSDF, Colonel Thao. The high school senior on my right side is a young woman who I am personally mentoring toward the U.S. Air Force Academy. I have been an ALO in years past, but this girl’s family brought me back to “active duty.” If she makes it, she would be the first graduate of Del Norte High School to do so. The DNHS’ rating is so low that it prevents qualified applicants from being accepted. (The USAFA considers the school’s rating along with the student’s scores.) The fellow in the suit to my far right is the Chairman of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors. The nicely dressed Hmong gentleman to my left is Joua Pao Vang. (Vang Pao was his uncle.) Joua Pao is a close friend from my tour as Raven 28 and also represents the Hmong Community on the Veterans’ Memorial Monument Committee. He and I also rub shoulders on the Hmong Council (9 separate clan elders) together.
This is the sole county of 50 California counties where a Veterans’ monument does not exist. We must pay for it ourselves or acquire financial donations from private parties. Fortunately for us, a growing number of local businesses are stepping up to the plate with in-kind donations. Every other California county erects monuments for deceased Veterans with public money. Also know that the Hmong monument represents a “first” for all of California. Such is why the Hmong are paying close attention to this particular project. It should attract widespread attention from Hmong leaders across the U.S.
So, that’s the story. Hopefully we’ll be able to help a local Hmong student to acquire an EAPLS scholarship in 2018. We’re working on it.
From Chartlie Felsenthal:
Pete’s RLAF project
When I arrived in Savannakhet near the end of November 1971, the RLAF Wing Commander there was Col. Concy Phimphavong. He was smart, conscientious, and effective, the youngest Wing Commander in the country at 37 years of age. John Roach (the AOC Commander) and I worked closely with him, and we always found him to be an excellent colleague. Concy was an engaged, hands-on commander whose pilots respected him, and he ran a very effective wing.
When the end came for the Royal Lao Government, Concy departed with his wife and children, eventually reaching the U.S. and going to work as a commercial pilot flying helicopters. He became active in the Air Commando Association, and the last time I saw him and his wife Lam was at the ACA’s annual meeting. He died in 2006. Lam still lives in Arizona, as does their son Pete, who was a small child when the family left Savannakhet.
Pete has always admired his father, and he remains loyal to the old flag with the Erawan (three-headed elephant) emblem. Some time ago, motivated by respect for his father and for his father’s colleagues, he decided to establish a nonprofit organization and a website devoted to the Royal Lao Air Force. The website is up and running, and you can find it at http://www.rlafproject.org. He already has a fair number of photos and narrative texts, but he is actively seeking more – preferably from people who were there and have first-hand knowledge. He would love to have input from the Ravens.
With the Executive Committee’s permission and on Pete Phimphavong’s behalf, I invite you to visit the website, and I ask that you consider allowing Pete to post any photos and/or reminiscences that you might care to submit. You can communicate with him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if there’s anything that you‘d like to ask me, I’m reachable at email@example.com.
Some good news for the web site–
The following Air Commandos will be inducted into the 2017 Air Commando Hall of Fame:
CMSgt (Ret) Bruce Brandewie
Col (Ret) Steven F. Dreyer
Lt Col (Ret) Jack Drummond
Col (Ret) John “Jack” Hester III
Col (Ret) Ben D. Orrell
We hope you will join us in recognizing the great accomplishments of these Air Commandos during the Annual Convention Banquet and Awards Ceremony at the Emerald Coast Convention Center in Fort Walton Beach, FL on Saturday, October 14, 2017. For more information or to register online please visit us at www.aircommando.org. We hope to see you there!
I have been informed that our President Emeritus, H Ownby passed away peacefully this morning, 19 Sept, 2017.
H served as Raven 26 from Oct, ’72 until the cease fire in Feb, ’73. He was reported to be the last Raven, departing Laos in Sept, ’73.
H was deeply involved in EAPLS from its inception and served as our elected President from Oct, 1995 to Oct, 1997.
I will send information on a memorial as soon as I have it.
Rest in Peace, H.
Fred Roth passed away on March 30, 2015 at the age of 82. Fred was born on November 29, 1932 in Denver, Colorado.
Fred is survived by his wife of 63 years, Betty Roth, two sons Fred and Scott, five
grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Fred lived a rich life graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from Washington State University and a Master’s degree from George Washington University.
Fred entered the United States Air Force after graduating from Washington
State completing pilot training and progressing through the ranks to Colonel. Fred served with distinction in Vietnam earning the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star with a V Device.
He is also a graduate of the National War College, was Wing Commander at Pease Air Force Base and retired after 27 years. He then worked for Lockheed finally retiring in 1992.
Fred and Betty lived in Lakeway for over 15 years before joining the Longhorn Village community.
Services and burial will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.