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125th Air Traffic Control Battalion (Prov.)


The 125th Air Traffic Control Company was deployed to Vietnam to provide non-divisional Air Traffic Control and Flight Following for all US Army Aviation. Each of the Divisions(1st Cav, 1st Div. 4th Div. 25th Div. etc.) deployed to Vietnam had their own organic Air Traffic Control Company for their Division's use.

The 125th ATC Company was a unit of several hundred men, initially, but grew to over 400 by 1970. Each of the platoons were assigned to a Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) Corps area. In other words, 1st Platoon was assigned to I Corp(far northern Corp; 2nd Platoon to II Corps; 3rd Platoon to III Corps and finally 4th Platoon to IV Corps(far southern Corp). These Platoons were quite large and provided tactical control towers, flight following and remote relay radios for flight following services to US Army helicopters, primarily. In some cases they provided Air Traffic Control services for major airfields owned by the Vietnamese with control towers, radio beacons and GCAs. As far as I know they also provided, several RAPCONs or Radar Approch Controls for busy areas and airports.(Can Tho in IV Corps and Phu Bai in I Corps.) There may have been other RAPCONs, but I am not sure where.

At the initial deployment of the 125th ATC Company, it was commanded by a senior CPT or MAJ and each Platoon was commanded by a CPT or 1LT. To assist that Platoon Commander, he was issued a U-6 Beaver fixed wing aircraft to take him and his support teams to the various locations where his platoon was deployed. It also allowed him to fly to the 125th ATC Company HQ in Tan Son Nhut Airfield in Saigon or later Bien Hoa Airfield about 35 miles N. of Saigon. When I joined the 125th ATC Company at Bien Hoa in Oct 1970, they were turning in their Beavers for UH-1H "Hueys". That meant the Commander had to be helicopter rated or duel rated. Most were simply helicopter pilots after the change over to helicopters.

With such a large number of men assigned to the 125th ATC, they needed a fair sized HQ and HQ Platoon in Saigon and Bien Hoa. At the HQ they had major avionics maintenance shops to be able to repair and keep operational all the radios and radars. Plus, with such a large number of men the administrative sections had to keep track of all those hundreds of people. Usually they all had to go through HQ coming into the country and leaving. When transportation was needed to take them long distances in-country, they usually caught USAF cargo hops from Saigon or Bien Hoa to the other major airfields and airbases.

Initially, the 125th ATC was directly assigned to USARV HQ, I believe. When the US ARmy's 1st Aviation Brigade, the 125th was assigned directly under it. Then in about 1969-70 the 125th was assigned under the 164th Aviation Group at Long Binh. It seemed no one knew where to put the unit for best support.

Not long after I was assigned to the 125th ATC Company, MAJ John J. Falbo, a Signal Corps Officer, was the Commander. MAJ Falbo immediately went to work to have the 125th ATC Company, a huge unit of over 400 men, re-designated as the 125th ATC Battalion (Provisional). He was successful and thus was able to become a Battalion Commander in a war zone, a very highly sought after command for career advancement. When this happened, each of the Platoons we redesignated a Company. The 1st Platoon became A Company, and so on down to 4th Platoon which became D Company. HQ Platoon became HQ Company. If my memory serves me correctly, this happend about Jan 1971. I spent about 7 months at Phu Bai in A Company. I was initially to be the Commander, but they moved a couple of MAJs in on top of me and I was moved down the ladder. At Phu Bai Airfield we had to provide Tower ATC operators as advisors(because the Phu Bai Airfield was really a Vietnamese Airfield and most all the Vietnamese control tower operators were graduates of the FAA school in the United States) and to run the ADF beacon and operate a RAPCON and GCA.

I believe the 125th ATC Bn (Provisional) remained as such until it stood down in about 1972 or 73, I am not entirely sure. And I believe it was re-activated again in Korea??

In the later years, say 1968 and later, there were specific Airfield Detachments that were set up at many of the Vietnamese airfields. These were simply a Field Grade officer such as a MAJ or LTC who was assigned by USARV(US Army Vietnam) as that specific airfield's Commander. He didn't have be a small number of people assigned to him to "run" that specific airfield(maybe 4 or 5). They were really kinda "bogus" because there wasn't much they could do with so few people and a seemingly poorly defined mission.

That is about all I know about the history of the 125th in Vietnam. I am sure if you can check at Ft. Rucker, AL and the US Army Air Traffic Services Command you might be able to find some official history of the unit. - Courtesy Tom Payne


Vietnamese made 125th ATC patch - "There was never really a Battalion patch other than the addition of Bn (Prov) to this patch. I am not sure just why the runway was 22/04 other than the fact it seems to be pointing to 040 degrees and 220 degrees in compass rose headings." Tom Payne


Equipment park at HQ, USATC BN, Bien Hoa AirBase Vietnam. Located on N.E. side of the Bien Hoa Airbase (Oct 70)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

CW2 Steven H. Schermann (L) and 1LT Walter I. Johnson in officers’ club trailer @ Bien Hoa HQ. I think CW2 Steven H. Schermann was the Motor Pool tech. WO. (Oct 70).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Eating steaks @ HQ Bien Hoa. 125th ATC BN(19:17hrs). L to R: MAJ Cleveland R. Pettit(XO), SFC Moore(Opns Sgt), LTC John J. Falbo(CO), CPT Arlie Matthews who was helicopter pilot and in 3rd Platoon and later C Company, CW2 Henry T. White who was the Supply and Property Book Officer. (Oct 1970).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

The 125th ATC crew at Song Be radio. We are standing outside the “bunkered and sand bagged” radio van inside the Special Forces camp. They worked in Northern III Corps handling VFR flight following traffic. Were connected to Saigon Center. They used UHF, VHF and FM with aircraft and passed their traffic to other Radios and flight following facilities via SSB(HF). Sorry, don’t know names of men , but pilot taking the picture with camera is 1LT Charles W. Kennedy. (Oct 70)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

CPT Dick Deason the 4th Platoon Commander @ HQ. He stayed in my room because he was short and ready to DROS on Dec 30, 1970. CPT Deason was fixed wing pilot, only and was one of the last commanders to fly the O-6 Beaver prior to their being turned in and all commanders being issued UH-1H helicopters. (Dec 70)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Beautiful view looking North from atop Vo Dat mountain which was N. of Xuan Loc in E. III Corps. Vo Dat mountain(really hill)was a horseshoe shaped hill(possibly remains of volcano) which was where the 3rd Platoon(C Company)had a radar(I don’t remember the nomenclature). The team’s mission was to provide VFR/IFR vectoring for a Brigade of the 1st Cav. They also were quite good at providing early warning of rocket and mortar attacks on 1st Cav FSBases and basecamps. After the attacks they could vector gunships back to the sites of the rocket attacks. They were opcon to 1st Cav and supported mostly by 1st Cav. This was also an area of III Corps called the “Rice Bowl”. A beautiful area.(Nov 1970, Thanksgiving)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

The Vo Dat radar, Van and team camp atop of Vo Dat mountain. Seems like there was an E-6 and 4 or 5 men. The only security was a RFPF force camped around and below the mountain! No Americans to my knowledge, although the 1st Cav was in the immediate area.(Nov 70)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Great photo of L to R: SFC Thomas T. Greene (1st SGT on new A Company), MSG Gaskins, USAF Liaison NCO at ARAC in Phu Bai, and SSG Sublette. They are standing in front of the “Red Hooch” or HQ of 1st Platoon(A Company). “Red Hooch” sat in middle of airfield and was the Orderly Room and in the back was quarters for two of us officers. (CPT Richard D. Pierce and I stayed in the back.) Note sign says “1st Platoon” and had not been changed. (Dec 1971).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

CPT Thomas Payne, with camera and SSG Wooten. CPT Arlie Matthews took the photo. We had flown in one of the new UH-1H’s to Vung Tau for some reason(I think to pick-up some repaired SSB(HF)radios from depot maintenance. Note the SSB(HF)antenna on the tailboom. We used the HF for flight following with our own Saigon Center when in the air. I also tried to contact the USA while in the air on the US Amateur(HAM)frequencies because I am a ham. Ha ha!(Dec 70)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Flying high over I Corps are three members of A Company. L to R: SSG Sublette, Terry Ebeltoft (ITT Gilfillan Tech Rep.) and SSG Chester G. Owens. I was flying right seat and we were in the A Company UH-1H, “Traffic Minder 745”. The Crew Chief was SP4 Robert A. Giannini. We got support for the aircraft in Danang at Red Beach.(Mar 1971)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Re-enlistment for SSG Arvel W. Stewart. On left is MAJ Earl L. Malchow, who was made CO of A Company, 125th ATC Bn (Prov.). MAJ Malchow had been in Vietnam for probably 1 ½ years and had extended for 6 months to get command of A Company. He had previously been Airfield Commander of Duc Pho Airfield which was about 50 miles S. of Chu Lai. He had just sworn in SSG Arvel W. Stewart for his re-enlistment. In front of the “Red Hooch” at Phu Bai Airfield. Note sign says “Co A” (June 71)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Standing in front of the “Red Hooch” in Phu Bai are L to R. MAJ John Hopper(eventually XO of A Company moving me down further to Admin officer) and Terry Ebeltoft (ITT Gilfillan Tech Rep.).Note that sign says “Co A” now!!(Apr 71)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

“The Budda” as we called him. WO1 Correll, the 125th ATC BN Property Book Officer on his initial tour through the BN to locate and identify all the accountable equipment in A Company in I Corp and in Phu Bai!!! God, there must have been a ton of it not on the Property Book and then there was probably a ton of it not there that was supposed to be!! He had apparently been a newly appointed WO1 from Senior NCO rank.( Jan71)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Two of the Company mascots, Left is “George” and Right is “Dickie”. They are awaiting a free hand-out of raw chicken soon to be barbequed for the Company party in Phu Bai. Dickie was taken care of by SP4 Robert A. Giannini, the UH-1 CrewChief. I don’t know whos dog George was. (Jun 71).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

1SGT Thomas T. Greene, standing in the EM Club of Co A. called “Alice’s Restaurant” Note the Stars and Bars(Confederate flag on wall above bar, not politically correct in 2001!!) (Feb 71)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

A good wide shot of Phu Bai Airfield looking north from the Control Tower walk around. The Phu Bai Tower was really a Vietnamese Government controlled tower. The tower operators from Company A, 125th ATC BN were there only in an advisory role and to help talk to the American pilots if the Vietnamese controllers could not make them understand. However, most of the Vietnamese controllers had attended the FAA Academy in the US or trained at Ft. Rucker or the USAF school. Mr. An was the Tower Chief of Phu Bai Tower. Looking from the UH-1(Traffic Minder 745) on left to the right is the “Red Hooch”, the Army Radar Approach Control(ARAC) in the tall revetments with two radars on top, and the commo antennas for the ARAC, and the Airfield Commanders quarters and office(LTC Lax) on right. LTC William M Lax was the Airfield Commander and CO of 325th Aviation Detachment. The NDB and RC-292 is just out of the photo to the right. Hangers across airfield belong to 101st Div. Aviation elements.(Jan 71)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Cooking out for the Company party in the Company area of the 125th ATC BN at Phu Bai. SSG Arvel W. Stewart on left and SSG Gerald T. Maloney, on right. These huts where the EM lived in Company A were built by the SeaBees for the US Marines in probably 65-66. (Feb 71)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Photo of the stand-by radio and radar vans along with generators that would be used for tactical deployment in I Corps if needed. Also, in background is the ARAC showing the tall sand filled revetments with one of the acquisition radars on top and the IFF antenna the long horizontal antenna with guy wires. Note the ARAC antenna farm atop the poles. Phu Bai (May 71).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

An exciting day in Phu Bai when a heavily loaded Boeing 727 belonging to AirVietnam was about to take off. He had taken every inch of the runway to land and we were taking bets as to how much of the runway he would use in taking off. The airfield at Phu Bai was only about 6,000 feet and this was during the hot and dry season. ARAC crews were sitting and watching along with CWO Bill Ringer who was standing with his camera on the empty cable spool. Note AN/TPN-18 atop the revetment used for GCA’s. Also, note the fiberglass dome in background which I think could be used to cover the radar??? (Jan 71)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Traffic Minder 745 our UH-1H being tied down after having just landed on the helipad of a US Navy floating maintenance ship which dry docked and repaired the River Jet Boats used by the US Navy. This was in the area near Tan My Island, just 15 minutes flight north of Phu Bai. The ship’s name/call sign was “Curve Ball”. >From L to R are the Navy Lt. who was in charge and who greeted us, SP4 Gianinni holding the tiedown of the rotor blade and walking with the helicopter Gunner and CWO Bill Ringer a member of Company A, 125th ATC BN. We had befriended the “Curve Ball” and would take the Navy personnel to their HQ in Danang for DROS, R & R , etc. or what ever they needed. We often took and brought back their mail to/from their HQ. They in turn would feed us like kings with steak, lobster, etc. This was a great relationship and one of the many we cultivated to make life very pleasant in I Corps and a long way from HQ in Bien Hoa.(Jan 71).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

The one, the only Bob Hope and Les Brown the Band leader(on right) returning to their C-130 at Phu Bai Airfield after giving a big show to the 101st Airborne near Phu Bai. Being at the Hue/Phu Bai Airfield we had the chance to see quite a few VIP’s. Bob had an entire crew and cast on two C-130’s. The Cue Cards for the shows were carried on a palette and were stacked up 5-6 feet and had to be loaded and unloaded with a fork lift. Note the Phu Bai Tower and passanger terminal in the back ground over the UH-1.(Dec 1970)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Bob Hope and Les Brown again Hamming it up. Note in background the large building which was the USAF cargo terminal and building. (Dec 1970)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Dong Ha airfield set up as a major USAF resupply base for Lam Son 719. Company A, 125th ATC BN set up and operated the airfield with a Beacon, Control Tower and GCA. Looking E from the airfield toward the coast and Quang Tri.(Mar 71)
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Dong Ha and the area where the tactical ATC team from Company A, 125th ATC BN lived. Latrine and shower in forground(empty wing tank is water for shower and latrine.) In back ground is sleeping hooch. Fork lift was acquired from USAF. We set up and operated the Airfield at Dong Ha, which was only about 3-4 Km from the DMZ and was rocketed at least 2-3 times a week. The Dong Ha area had a very large tent city where elements of the 1st Bde of 5th Mech Div. were base camped.
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

HQ of 125th ATC BN at Bien Hoa. Note sign shows 125th ATC BN. Also the area where HQ Company and C Company were. Taken just prior to my DROS. (Jun 71).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Dong Ha Airfield looking West. Thank gosh it was the dry season because if it had been the rainy season it would have been a Sea of Mud!!! Area with sleeping hooch and shower/latrine is to left of USAF built Quonset shaped hanger. Interlocking Steel plate parking area directly in front of camera. At end the mortar and rocket attacks got so frequent we moved the sleeping hooch into and under the steel reinforced concrete Quonset hanger for protection!! (Mar 71).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Close-up shot of the Dong Ha equipment. Tower far piece, AN/TPN-18 GCA radar, generator and IFF Transponder antenna. (Mar 71).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

Part of the tactical crew that ran the Dong Ha set-up in the sleeping hooch. Seated at table are SP4 Holland, SP4 Wooters, SSG Main and SSG Charles G. Mosley. Not sure which is which but believe they are L to R as written. (Mar 71).
Image courtesy of Tom Payne

A photo I took of Vo Dat mountain while returning from the 125th A.T.C. base camp in Bien Hoa some time in early Nov. 1970.
Image courtesy of Sam Weaver (SP-5) C Company, 125th ATC Battalion Vo dat MT. 9/70 thru 12/70

I was briefly assigned to Hue ARAC in 1971 as an Enroute 93K20 Air Traffic Controller. I spent most of my time in Viet Nam at Marble Moutain AAF, switched back to 93H20. I continued my career in ATC and I am now retired from the FAA in St. Peters, MO. We had a locally produced unit patch made while I was in Phu Bai.
Image courtesy of Butch McLean


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