DEROS 9 Feb 1969 - Benjamin Fred Starr, Jr.
Tour started at 504th Tactical Air Support
Group training in Feb. 68. Assumed CC as Nail01 of 25th TASS in Apr. 68.
Reassigned as CC as Covey01 if 20th TASS in Aug 68. Not only did I triple
my responsibility in men and aircraft but it cost me over $90 in COLA.
This story is about leadership. When I arrived,
the old CC showed me around the place - big - like a baby wing if I had ever
seen one. We drove along the flight line looking at all the O-2s and O-1s
and I was impressed. Then he said he wanted me to see his pride and joy,
his command O-2. It was a beauty! Slick as a bullet - now rocket
pods, no light log shackles, no drag what-so-ever. I asked the commander,
who I was about to replace, what in the world it was for. He then boasted
that he was the only one flying it, and, for the most part, when he flew
it, he went feet wet to Bien Hoa for a commanders conference. He
said his airplane was at least 25 knots faster than any O-2 in the theater.
I could not believe what I was seeing. There were a bunch of O-2s
but surely maintenance could more easily meet the flying schedule if they had
all their airplanes ready for combat. I asked him if he ever ran short
of airframes and he said he didn't think so - at least no one had ever complained.
The day he departed Da Nang, I
asked the maintenance officer to please prepare the CC aircraft for combat
in the next few days. I told my crew chief he could still keep it polished
and waxed if he wanted to, because I sure thought it was pretty and I planned
to fly it every time I flew if it was not on a combat mission. I said
we might hold it for my flight if they wanted to, but it was now definitely
an asset of the squadron operations. All I saw was a lot of grins.
I don't believe any of the maintenance men thought they would ever see the day
when a commander would willfully give up such a beauty with kicking and dragging
feet. Morale went up perceptibly and while I was CC, the aircraft flew
a combat mission at least once a week by me and how many other times it flew,
I do not really know.
One might wonder why I felt adamant
about it. When I was a young aircraft commander of a B-29, I had a commander
who had never flown in one of his airplanes, so far as I knew, so one day I
begged him to fly with us on a short mission that I was sure he would enjoy.
He said he was sorry but he was already scheduled to fly. I thought it
was strange because he was not in the daily flight briefing but dismissed it
totally, until I arrived in base ops to file. What did I see? My
squadron commander was standing in base operations by an instructor pilot that
I recognized as the base flight Gooney Bird (C-47) instructor pilot!!!
I decided then that the way to influence the troops was not to get time for
pay in a passenger airplane when I could do it just like the rest of the pilots
did it in their combat aircraft.
I do not know if my young FACs
ever noticed it or not, because they were certainly the most self-motivated
bunch I have ever had the pleasure to be associated with, but my crew chief
noticed with a grin and that was all I needed.