189th Assault Helo Co "Ghost Riders"
The 189th was just one unit of the largest Aviation Battalions ever formed; the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB). “The Flying Dragons” was subordinate to the 17th Combat Aviation Group (CAG), which was subordinate to the 1st Aviation Brigade, the largest Army Aviation organization formed since World War II. The 1st Aviation Brigade was comprised of several Groups, each having several Battalions.
The gun-ship pilots with their usual hefty amount of bravado decided to seek their combat fortunes using the call sign ‘Avengers’. The slick pilots followed the theme by selecting ‘Ghost Rider’. On 06/15/67, the 189th AHC became operational to primarily support the 4th Inf. Div. On 09/15/67, the 189th was reassigned from direct support of the 4th Inf. Div. to general support of the Central Highlands. These missions included the support of II Corps, 5th SFG, and 52nd Artillery Battalion, as well as Operations Omega (B-50), and Prairie Fire (5th SFG).
On 10/01/67, the 189th was in support of Operation Prairie Fire, the high stakes, top secret, cross-border reconnaissance game. The rules were much different and the standards expected of pilots much higher for flying across the border into Laos and Cambodia. Normal military protocol, rank, etc., were subordinated as natural leaders proved they were up to the challenge. Friendships formed based on trust and mutual interdependence. Foremost was the determination by all participants that they would stick to the bitter end of the mission to ensure no friendly forces were left behind in enemy territory. This marked the start of a classified mission for the 189th with the 5th SFG out of FOB-2 at Kontum. This mission required all the skill, techniques, and proficiency the pilots and crews could muster. Charlie was not to be laughed at.
From 19 October – 9 November 1967, the 189th supported the 5th SFG (Prairie Fire) in a primary mission of re-supply and liaison. The unit also conducted several combat assaults flown into the mountain landing zones southwest of Kontum. On one such assault, a 281st AHC aircraft killed one enemy. On 9 November, the aircraft were withdrawn to Pleiku, where they once again flew in support of the 52nd CAB. On 10/28/67, an Avenger gunship received three hits by ground fire in the vicinity of Dak To. One crew member was wounded in action and aircraft continued to fly. With excellent gun coverage provided by the Avengers and the Ghost Riders, the 5th SFG continued to operate successfully and effectively on the FOB-2 mission.
Omega (B-50) Operations terminated on 10/30/67 with all Ghost Riders returning to Camp Holloway. Many pilots were looking forward to continuing this mission in the future. On the next day and, concurrently while supporting the 4th Inf. Div., the 189th again received a top priority mission of supporting Command and Control South (CCS). This mission began on 11/01/69 and continued through the end of the year. They would support others during 1968 but were called upon again to support CCS in November ‘69 and in June ‘70, with fine results. The 189th lost one man in Nov ‘69 and three more men supporting CCS in June ‘70. The 189th AHC was inactivated 03/15/71 in Vietnam.
A two Slick Laos pig hunting trip that probably required a fictionalized After Action report. Being assigned to SOG meant doing whatever they wanted without having to take any of the heat. 1969 is all that I know about this one. You probably can’t see the beer cans, but this was a moral booster. Aside from having one of those rare good times, I think they also knew the Indig’s could use the food. The idea of using two Army Slick’s to hunt pigs still cracks me up. By Ray Hoagland, 189th Assault Helo Co “Ghost Riders”