The ‘McGuire rig’ was used quite frequently to extract soldiers from the jungle when no suitable pick-up zone was available.
What we did was tie our rappelling rope around our chest, then snap a d-ring on the rope. As our chopper was hovering above the jungle at tree top level, the crew dropped two or three one-hundred foot ropes down to us. These ropes had a loop at each end and were securely tied to the floor of the Huey. We snapped the end of the rope to our d-ring and were lifted out of the jungle then flown to the nearest LZ (Landing Zone)…
Photo courtesy of Dave Roger (right)
Quick Rescue ( usually recovery) Team
As a member of the Blue team, our primary duty was to scout for the enemy on the ground after our reconnaissance helicopters found signs of enemy movement.
All too often a Scout bird would get shot down. In that event, the Blues would scramble down to the helipad and board our Hueys and head out to the crash site.
The crash site was usually marked by smoke rising above the jungle, as most of the birds crash and burn upon impact. Our pilot would hover the Huey above the trees close to the downed aircraft as we rappelled one at a time to the ground through the dense vegetation. We always carried rappelling equipment with us as standard equipment, which consisted of leather gloves, rope and d-ring.
Fortunately, with our vast air support, the NVA and Viet Cong usually stayed out of sight until we were gone. Unfortunately, we mostly brought back depressing and disheartening body bags…
Down Bird in Cambodia Audio (May 6, 1970)
When your Vietnam tour was complete, you flew to Oakland Army Base in the San Francisco Area to process out…
It seems a bit dangerous, but we never thought anything of it. Riding on choppers with our legs dangling over the side was very common.
When being inserted on a recon mission, the Huey pilots had good reasons for not wanting to stick around too long, so we had to exit the bird as quickly as possible…
Immaculate Conception Medal
When I left for Vietnam, my mother gave me an Immaculate Conception Medal. She said it would help keep me safe, so I wore it around my neck for a short while, until I decided it was just too shiny. I then slipped it into my wallet for the rest of my tour.
I gave what was left of it to my daughter Jill a few years back to keep. It was almost worn down flat from being in my wallet that long…
New Guy got the radio
I was a FNG (f**king new guy) so they put a radio on my back. My call sign was Blue India.
As a RTO (radio telephone operator) I was the only communication between us Blues on the ground and our choppers in the air. It only made sense that the RTO was a prime target in a firefight, so that’s probably why the radio was given to a FNG. I found out a little later that the Blues radio guy (Blue-India) was killed in an ambush in September of 1969.
The most common radio used was the PRC-25. The PRC-25 ran on battery power, and the battery only lasted for one day of continuous use, so I always carried a spare. The PRC-25 had two large knobs, which changed the frequency. The frequency had to be changed often to insure that enemies could not pick up transmissions.
I also carried smoke grenades. The smoke grenade released clouds of colored smoke to help mark location for gun ships and Huey Pilots.
The first time I rappelled from a chopper with a radio on my back, I flipped upside down from being a bit top heavy. After a few more rappelling missions, I finally figured it out…
Tom Criser served in Vietnam from February 1969 through March 1970. He also carried the radio (Blue India) while with the Blues.
Pat Bieneman (Blue India, 1968-69)