Vic Garcia's helicopter seemed to be the experimental ship. Every new piece of equipment was tried out on it. CWO Bates was the usual aircraft commander until he left us. I think that he was became cadre for the "Devils", the 13th Batalion's Cobra company. Maintenance mounted a "bullet detector" on it, and he was roundly criticized for reporting all of the bullets that it picked up. Probably because it let us know when we were taking fire that we would not otherwise have noticed. This ship was Blue Tiger 9. Until about June of '67, the helicopters had a larg T with either a B or a W under the left arm, and a number, 1 through 9, under the right arm. Vic and I noticed that the placard on the dash stating the number was being removed, and the numbers on the tail were changing to 11-19 and 21-29 when they went in for their 100 hour inspection. So we pulled the placards off of our ships, and kept them as mementos.
I was issued one of the bullet resistant (?) helmets, but did not like it for some reason. So I loaned it out, and WO Ricky Hull was wearing it when he was killed in February of '68. We crew chiefs were very possessive of our helicopters, usually as if we were making payments on them. This resulted in taking better care of them than if we had regarded them as just another piece of army stuff. Once when Donald Henry refered to "his" helicopter, an officer corrected him that it was Uncle Sam's helicopter. "Then let Uncle Sam put his name in that log book!" was the heated reply. This was not a universal attitude, but was true of the majority of us. I went through several helicopters during my tour. This was somewhat unusual. My first, 663, was a worn out dog when I started crewing her. Yet she taught me a lot, and like most first loves, made a more lasting impression than those that came later. Late in '67 her crew chief, Terry McNeil, came to me and told me that the engine mounting point on the engine deck was so worn that he could rock the engine side to side. I showed this to CWO Shore, our maintenance officer, and she left the stage field. When we got home that night, she was gone. There were over 2700 hours on the airframe at that time. We had got a batch of tech inspectors that were trained at FT. Eustess, and they were sending ships out with serious defects. Vic Hollowel complained loud and long about his tailrotor pitch change links, and was over ruled several times by the tech inspectors. Then came the day that his tail rotor pitch change mechanism came flying back through the formation.... My next ship was 980, which I named Tiger Surprise in honor of CWO Daly's heroics on Easter Sunday of '67. Low time, a good lifter, stable and smooth. She became the 3rd Viking Surprise in September of '67. Next was 129, the second Tiger Surprise. CWO Al Hull of New Jersey was the aircraft commander. Mr. Hull was a good man, but he did have one quirk. He liked to take pictures of people answering nature's call. He was noted in November of '67 as having flown 150 hours that month. I had flown 250, so was not appropriately impressed. He has a most interesting photo album somewhere. Then I volunteered to be the floating crew chief. I thought that this would give me more time off. Wrong! After Sgt Jackie Kirk left, SFC Stogner became the 1st platoon's PSG. He had been worthless as a tech inspector, but did quite well as a platoon sgt. He assigned me to 060, then to another helicopter whose number I don't remember. When a pilot achieved aircraft commander status, he was nominally assigned to an aircraft. I do not think that this meant much, as pilots seemed to be assigned by the whim of the ops officer, or perhaps to what ever aircraft was available when their name came up. And the helicopters and enlisted crews usually flew about 150% of the hours a month that an individual pilot flew.