Army's 12th Aviation Battalion Bids Farewell To Last Huey
By Jennifer Brennan
Fort Belvoir's 12th Aviation
Battalion said farewell last week as the unit's last UH-1 Huey
helicopter flew out of sight at Davis Army Airfield (VA).
Fewer than 150 Hueys will be flying Army-wide by the end of the
month, including 60 that belong to the National Guard, according to
the US Army Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal (AL).
A spokesman there said another 270 are waiting for final
disposition at an aviation maintenance facility in Temple (TX).
This month is the end of an era and the beginning of another for
retired Staff Sgt. John Davis, 58, and many others at Davison Army
Airfield. As the 12th Avn. Bn. retires its last Huey, it becomes a
full UH-60 Black Hawk battalion with an assigned technical rescue
"This is a very historic day for the 12th Aviation," said Lt.
Col. James Brandon, battalion commander, who addressed 12th
Aviation Soldiers and guests gathered in a hangar at Davison Army
The last Huey, No. 308, leaves behind a 30-year history at
Davison Army Airfield, where it served since arriving from the
While Davis, now a civilian aircraft mechanic, is ready to spend
more time repairing and maintaining Black Hawks, he said that he
still will hold close memories of flying the Huey.
Davis wore a black T-shirt with "UH-1 Huey" written in yellow
during the ceremony. His ball cap read: "9th Infantry Division
It's not unusual for a camera to hang from Davis's neck. He
tried to keep one close by while serving four tours during the
Vietnam War. Davis said he's sad to see the Huey go, after spending
40 years flying and repairing Hueys.
"It was gonna' happen, eventually," Davis said.
Davis flew in a Huey in Vietnam, and as part of a reconnaissance
unit, rescued service members from danger on the ground.
"Sometimes they were chased," Davis said. "We had no gun cover
Those missions, I remember more than anything,"
History of Huey No. 308
When Donald Neeley came to Davison Army Airfield in 1969, 48
Hueys filled the hangars. At the time, Neeley was a part of the
Executive Flight Detachment that operated from 1958 to 1965.
Huey No. 308 arrived at the airfield in 1974, fresh from the
factory. It replaced an older model, said Neeley, who is now the
Delta Company aircraft maintenance chief. No. 308 never flew in
combat but was used during various missions, Neeley said. In 1985,
the battalion received Black Hawks. A decade ago, the battalion
started to bid farewell to Hueys.
Some Hueys were used during firefighters' training and others
were turned over to foreign sales.
Things will be different around the hangar where the battalion
once repaired and maintained its Hueys, Neeley said.
"The normal Huey is just worn out," Neeley said. "It's the end
of an era, if you will."
Since No. 308's arrival, it tallied 4,857 hours of flight time,
said Delta Co. commander Capt. Derek Barker, 31. Barker sees that
the maintenance needs are met for the battalion's 18 Black
Cost wise, Barker said the company couldn't maintain two
separate aircraft types. The Huey's replacement, a Black Hawk,
arrived from Corpus Christi, Texas, in August and is currently in
service, Barker said.
Although another aircraft came to take the Huey's place, Bennie
Brooks, Delta Co. aircraft shop supervisor, is still sad to see it
go. "The best aircraft the Army ever had," is how he described the
Huey. "Been a workhorse, no doubt about it."
As he looked at the Huey undergoing maintenance two weeks ago,
he noted that the UH-1 family of aircraft served as the Army's
primary utility helicopter for decades.
"It did all the work in Vietnam," Brooks said.
The Huey first flew in 1956 and served in front-line service in
the US military and militaries around the world. The first Hueys
operating in Vietnam were medevac versions, designated UH-1As,
which arrived in Vietnam in April 1962, prior to the United States'
official involvement in the conflict.
That October, the first armed Hueys
flew in Vietnam. Hueys served in Grenada, Panama, Desert Shield,
Desert Storm and on the front line of Operation Iraqi Freedom,
according to the battalion commander. "It's a great but sad day,"
Brandon said. "As the Army is transforming, this battalion is no
"The UH-1 is a generation old. The Black Hawk is the current
generation," Brandon said.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Thomas D. Lawson, 12th Avn. Bn, has
served most of his flight career flying Hueys. "The Huey is just a
machine that everybody is fond of," Lawson said.
The Huey and Black Hawk have their differences.
The Huey's rounded nose, twin-bladed rotor and loud sound
distinguish it from the Black Hawk. The UH-1 cruises at 90 knots
compared to the faster Black Hawk that cruises 120 to 150 knots,
The Black Hawk can also lift more than two tons, more payload
than the Huey. A Black Hawk can hold 11 people in comparison to the
Huey's seven, Brandon said. Although Black Hawks may be faster and
carry more weight, Brandon holds on to memories of the Huey as the
battalion embarks on a new era. "It's a good ol' friend," Brandon
(Note: Jennifer Brennan writes for the Belvoir Eagle
newspaper -- ed.)