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War Stories

Remembering Skip Petrie

Don Borey

My first introduction to Skip was shortly after I arrive in the Troop. He was Operations Officer having returned after recovering from a friendly fire incident where he was wounded along with several others by one of the Troop's Cobras.

He was giving a briefing wearing a Pith (Safari) Helmet emblazoned with the word "Director" on it. As a Newbie, I wondered what kind of unit I was getting into. After Don Phillips left, Skip became Cobra platoon leader.

I didn't remember that Ken Weigand was a roommate of Petrie. I think after he left, CPT Lee Cranney moved in as roommate.

Actually, they had two rooms and cut a portion of the wall divider down making a large living room. The living room had a couch, a bar, and a couple of easy chairs in it. The suite had two bunk areas and a bathroom off the back part of the area. I remember thinking "What a hooch!" If you had to go to war, this was the way to go.

The snake that Skip had (see Petrie & CIA story), which I think was a Python not a Boa, ended up in an enclosure next to the Officer’s Club in the compound at Lai Khe. It was fed a chicken every so often. Apparently, they do not eat all that often. One day the enclosure was empty. The snake was eventually found somewhere in the area. After that happened, I think the CO made Skip get rid of the snake.

I vaguely remember Felix Rodriguez. He was always thought to be a CIA guy. I think the unit participated in one operation involving him where the troop provided a blocking force as part of the operation. Shortly thereafter Felix, like all spooks, disappeared from the AO.

When CW2 Mortimer was shot down and the troop scrambled to react, I remember running out to the flight line and seeing Skip in a Cobra with the blades turning. He motioned to me and I ran and jumped into the copilot seat. Skip left the revetment while I was still trying to get strapped in, get my chicken plate and my helmet on and plugged in to the radios.

We arrived on scene about the time the slick arrived to land and pick up Mortimer. The VC were moving on the helicopter. We rolled in to fire on the left side of the slick. Skip was way out of trim and I was yelling over the intercom. He punched off a pair of rockets and I watched as they went from the left side of the slick over the top to the right side and impacted the ground fairly close. The slick lifted off and took Mortimer to the evac.

Years later I was talking to Steve Borden who told me he was one of the pilots on the slick. We discussed the day and he said we had given great support when they were on the ground during the recovery.

Skip was quite a character, and I am fortunate to have known him. I saw a program once on the Discovery channel. It was about the Cobra helicopter. Skip was in it and by then he was a Major. I have never been able to locate that video program again