Story courtesy of the Rhode Island National Guard
QUONSET AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, R.I., (9/22/09) -- Civilians and military members gathered here Sept. 20 to witness the UH-1 Huey helicopter’s last fly by and listen to stories about the role the venerable helicopter played in the imagination and everyday lives of the American people.
The UH-1 Huey was built by Bell Helicopters to answer the U.S. Army’s request for a medical evacuation helicopter in 1955.
The U.S. Army had a 50-year love affair with the Huey, and the Rhode Island Army National Guard joined in when the first Huey was assigned here in 1972.
Soldiers from the Rhode Island Army National Guard shared some of their fondest memories of the Huey. Retired Col. William Babcock, the former commander of Rhode Island’s 56th Troop Command, remembers the Huey from his time in Vietnam as a platoon leader.
“The Hueys and their pilots saved lives,” he said. “I remember one time one of my guys went down and the first two helicopters took fire and left. The Huey came and stayed at a hover, while they lowered the jungle penetrator to get him out. I have many good memories of the Huey and they will be missed.”
Over the years, the Huey has provided much needed support. In 1978 a nor’easter snowstorm knocked out power and caused the closure of the interstate systems in the Northeast. For about a week, the Rhode Island Army National Guard Huey pilots flew over 700 hours of transport, supply and medical evacuation missions. This was one of the largest disaster relief missions in Rhode Island’s history.
“I remember flying Medievac flights during the blizzard of ’78,” said retired Brig. Gen. John L. Enwright. “Because of the conditions that was a huge help to the people of Rhode Island. With the Huey, we could fly the patients out.”
The faster, more powerful UH-60 Blackhawk will replace the UH-1 Huey across the U.S. Army. The Rhode Island Army National Guard has already received 12 Blackhawks to fill the gap left by the six UH-1s that they had been authorized.
Rhode Island may not see any UH-1 flying over head any longer. On Sept. 25, the remaining two will be flown to Ozark, Ala., and turned in.
There will be one remaining Huey in Rhode Island. It will remain as a static display here in front of the Army Aviation building once the building is constructed. A UH-1 Huey sitting outside a state of the art facility will be a constant reminder of where we came from and how far we can go.