Un-Assing the Bird
by: Hank Ortega, PA/C
(© Copyright, 1998)
These photos are from Drew Endicot's "Hub of Helicopters". I agree with him that the one on the right is one of the best helicopter photos extant.
People have said that the helicopter revolutionized the face of modern warfare, not only as a gun and rocket platform and a means of rapid recon, but primarily as a troop transport. One of the first things cherry troops were taught by old timers was how to "un-ass the bird" Heliborne assaults were used to ferry in large amounts of troops in a short amount of time. About a squad of men could load into a Huey, with all their equipment and weapons. Some times only one huey would load a few men, and quickly drop a light team into the forest to quickly move away and do their mission with as little notice as possible.
The helicopter crews wanted to spend absolutely as little time there as possible and would often not even touch down completely. Our method became to have all the men that were in the doors, stand on the skids. The man nearest the rear held onto the upright post that supported the machine gun, the one closest to the front held onto the front door frame. The one or two guys in the middle of the door, grabbed onto the seat if there was one or hooked a finger or two into the floor rings and hoped the forces of turning wouldn't toss them away from the bird. As the helicopter came into the LZ, the men would crouch into the slip stream. The men still inside would crouch on their knees, to get ready for the insertion.
The helicopter would "flare" by dropping it's tail down, taking the load of slowing full onto the main rotor. The ship would shudder. Then the bird would level off for just a second or two. Maybe near the ground, maybe not. Where ever it was in relation to the ground, the helicopter would then tilt forward and pound its way out of there. No matter where it was in relation to the ground it was NOT going to get any closer! At the exact second the helicopter leveled off, THAT was when you would step off. Un-ass the bird!