Dear Bud...

submitted by: Alva Leon Matheson

Dear Bud,
Please put your expertise chop on this contribution to our history. Edit, add, delete as required. I accept your good judgment. You get a 9-4 OER. A first!
This may not make the FAC book deadline. I hope it does, but I have procrastinated because, I thought, perhaps incorrectly, that my FACing tales were not up to the grand standard that had been set by others.
So, I write about the unique character of the Forward Air Controllers I knew from ‘65 to ‘73. Our Nam FACs (slow or fast) wrote the book, but not the first chapter: From Civil War balloons to WWI Spad drivers (they were their own FACs), to WWII arty spotters, to Korean War T-6 Mosquitoes, the FAC legacy was recorded. Desert Storm & Iraq Freedom are the latest.
“Willie Pete,” Warren P. Smith, was a blindly dedicated career officer whose name is inscribed on the FAC Monument at Hurlburt. He and Charlie Russell were KIAd in the 60’s.
Charlie was a dentist in the Air Force. He went from Captain to Second Lieutenant in a signature. Charlie came into my life at Reese. He was in fact a little older than the average bear, having been to dental school. We met at Reese’s classic aviator stag bar, where he told me he desired to fly in combat, not pull teeth. So, I soloed him in T-38s, took a cross-country to Clarkdale, TN to meet his parents. They were extremely proud that he would fly, and attended his graduation.
So, as a Raven, Charlie went from molars to “movers,” from fillings to FACing to his death. Patriotic dedication was unmatched by Charlie Russell, D.D.S. Over his cemetery arch is the word “Valor.”
ATC (Allergic to Combat – just kidding, just kidding) was our mother command...everyone’s. Bob Van Vossen learned my dangerous flying techniques in a Reese T-38 solo. He got through Hurlburt, pipelined to Nam. Bob was a charger, blindly obedient to engage the Cong as a result of our “training.” He charged a rented Cessna into a Hawaii mountain valley en route to his first war. He didn’t make it... Who knows, his name might have made the Hurlburt memorial anyway.
Reese was well represented in the KIA/MIA roster. A classmate of mine, Scarborough (52- C) made it through Korea, then KIAd in Nam. Bubba Hauer, Rick Ottem, Eddy and Vrablik are on our Honor Roll. Saw Eddy/Vrablik at Bien Hoa the night before they “bought the farm.”
I am at the unique age now... somewhere between “brain dump” and “senior moment.”
However, vividly etched in my heart, are the Gambino and Gray families. I felt so inadequate expressing the Nail/Rustic/Air Force and the nation’s gratitude as I presented their “Gongs’ in New York and D. C. respectively.
Editor Note...Joe Gambino was a Rustic KIA in April 73 in Cambodia, and Dick Gray was a Nail who was KIA at Phnom Penh in June 73, he was the last FAC to die in SEA
The 15 Aug ‘73 Frag into Cambodia had two Second Lieutenants (one a Texas Aggie) in the same Bronco. (Now that’s an OPS hazard!) Reed and Slagle made Nail history – Sierra Hotel – Nash! (Nails are Shit Hot!!)
Medals of Honor to Wilbanks and Bennett humbled us all. Nail Fac Steve Long carried our banner while TDY in the Hanoi Hilton. All gave some – some gave all!
The FAC attrition was high, but that’s relative, isn’t it? A hundred ”North” Thud driver, unimpressed with our raucous club behavior at NKP commented to me, “I never saw a FAC over Hanoi.”
Alas, unit, aircraft, mission pride are also relative. I commented (expletive not deleted!) FAC talk back to him, “We’re all in the same formation, Alpha Hotel!”
This is stretching into one of those NKP, TUOC “Howie’s Haranguings!”
Editor Note...having personally survived many of those “Don’t be a dull dumb shit” speeches”...they were never pointless, and were often inspiring and spawned a now famous Nail FAC patch!!
The FAC mission drew a very special type of aviator. MPC must have had “unique character and personality” requirements to be a FACer. Some samples of unusual call signs, terms and names should be recorded in our FAC history. (Forgive those omitted – a Baron virus).
Growth, Crash, Troll, Wolfman, Rowdy, Roota, DDS, Karnac, Cincnail, Cincturd, Dirty German, Bud, Aggie, Thunderchicken, Wrobo, Randy, Two and a Quarter, Rash, Dick (last SEA FAC KIA), Doc, Pat, Nash, Cincnailhole, Missue, Turk, Squirrel, Black Fac, Wendy, Art Baker, Tully Bascomb, Rails, Jettison, Bud Skipworth, Flaxen Haired Beauty, Tom, Guy, Charlie, Oum, Dale, Si, Al, Wooden Eye, Roger, Wayne, Plaque Fac, Mark, Roger, Gib, Delta Sierra, Double Banger, Oh Shit, The Cape, Hammering, Blow Hockey, The Hammer, The Keeper of the Cape, Scat Back Jake, Bob, Chuck, Bill, Manny the Mad Cuban, Ray, Shell, Movers, Mike, Nail Break, John, Rick, Leroy, Rocky and the hundreds of ground crewmen, Intel types, OK... the Staff Pukes, too.
Check Six, In to Mark, Hit my Smoke, Cleared Hot!
Career highlights pale for me compared to being a FAC (my last flying assignment). The dozens of call signs, hundreds of aviators, and thousands of sorties all blur my wet eyes. Our FAC spirit, dedication and tenacity are woven into the fabric of Air Force history and legacy.
Cleared Hot on life!
Nail 01, Howie Pierson