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War Stories


The ARVN version of the Aerorifle Platoon Blues

Randy Love, Joe Hoover, Frank Dillon


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Randy Love (Feb 2019):
"Browns" were what we called Vietnamese Rangers or Vietnamese (ARVN) doing the work of an "American" Aero Rifles platoon in Air Cav units. What the command was trying to do, during Vietnamization Program, was replacing our American Blues (Aero-Rifles) with Vietnamese Browns!! So our Pink or Red Teams would have to count on those Browns to come in and get them if they were shot down! It was a BS idea !! ......

Birdman Harlan Sparrow "may" have been involved with that MOCK downed aircraft drill to see how those Browns would react.

I was on the C&C bird orbiting with the Pink Team on that days operation. We normally had two Pink Teams, one on standby and relief at the Base camp or Fire Support Base, etc; and one out in the AO. Rick Benneror any of the Blues in F Troop in 71 probably were involved, but most definitely Rick Benner could elaborate. PFC (Mike?) Olsen (Blues/Ranger) may have been there also. I can't remember who told me about it after we came in, but he was WAY TOO HOT for me to talk to him about it until later .

We did have some Rangers who were Browns with us for a while. If memory serves, ARVN Command was less than happy with those original Browns and sent us some more that they had trust in. I think they were very embarrassed by gutless response. Rick Benner tested that next Group and their Team Leader, and they did react and did repel. They didn't stay though. I don't know why. Rick might.


Randy Love: Sometime in 1971 someone in Command decided we could change from Blues to Browns for Air Crew rescue. Of course I was NOT happy. Anyway SSG Rick Benner was still in charge of that team along with the Browns team leader. He had received mixed reviews about their trustworthiness so while we were out in our Area of Operation he planned with the Commander (ours) for us to go out and orbit with our Command and Control bird and Hunter Killer team and see what the Browns would do if they were told we had a bird down.

Their Team Leader was NOT in on it. Turns out that they would not even get on the Huey!!

Later that day they took them up to see if they would or could rappel; nope , Benner was hooking them up and kicking them off the ship!! One of our Blues was the brake man so he could lower them if they went sideways.

The next day we were back to Blues. If you hear from Rick , ask him about it , he was HOT !!! Would be a nice story I'd think .


Joe Hoover:

I remember the Browns “incident” Randy Love told about.  I was not there when the Browns refused to get on the aircraft (or don’t remember it) but I do remember when the second set of Browns were assigned to F Troop, we were tasked with helping train them to rappel, do insertions and extractions.  We were staging at a fire support base near the Cambodian border.  It was decided to use this as a good time to do some repelling. 


SSG Rick Benner and SSG Thomas Panti (both were shake and bakes as I recall) were conducting the training.  First, they had to rig the Browns, then show then how to hook up to the rapelling rope using the carabiner and demonstrate how to get on the skid, lower themselves and then push off while releasing pressure on the rope to control their speed.  They did all this at my aircraft with it sitting on the ground not running. 


Then we went to an open area just outside the wire of the fire support base where the grass was pretty tall.  Panti was on the ground holding the rope so he could help control their speed of descent and Benner was in the aircraft with the Browns.  Benner hooked up the first ARVN and then tried to get him on the skid.  Basically, Benner had to push him out onto the skid.  Then getting him to turn around and lower himself to parallel to the ground was a real pain.  Benner was trying to shout instructions to him over the sound of us at a hover.  You know how damn noisy that is.  Finally get the ARVN to push off and as soon as he let go of the rope, he grabbed it again and when he swung back to the skid, it hit him square in the mouth.  Then he let go of the rope again and went down quickly. Luckily, Panti put some tension on the rope and slowed him down enough that he didn’t bounce very much. 


Needless to say the remaining ARVNs were even harder to get onto and down the rope.  One of them went about a third of the way down and then wouldn’t go any further.  We finally had to descend down enough that he was close to the ground and he let himself go on down the rope.


I remember too that Benner was hot about the first Browns refusing to get on the aircraft.  He was pissed about having to train them as well and how frustrating it was.  Panti was a little easier going than Benner.  He thought the training was a little funny and kept kidding Benner about it.  We did some practice insertions and extractions with the Browns as well and did more repelling training that week.  The Browns did finally get to the point where they would repel but they were slow enough about it that we would have been sitting ducks if we ever had to do it in a hot area.


After watching, some of the other crews thought it would be fun to repel so they got rigged and did repel.  The Commander heard about it and put a stop to it.  Didn’t want a pilot getting hurt and unable to fly.


I do remember thinking if we ever went down, I hoped Panti and Benner would be the ones coming to get us.


Frank Dillion: I remember the only "Brown's" soldier who was from Cambodia. We called him "Combo". He was an entertaining clown. Pete Holmberg remembers his nickname was Cambode because he was the only Cambodian in the Brown’s platoon. We staged out of Tay Ninh in those days to fly into Cambodia.