In Vietnam one day, I was coming back to base after a long day of flying. As I landed in our revetment I was notified that A LERP team was in need of a night extraction. These LERP teams were made up of six men with the mission of setting up listening post and booby traps along trails that were suspected of being used to transport weapons and supplies to Viet-Cong units in our Area of Operation (AO). The LERP team was inserted earlier that day and had moved three klicks from their insertion point into the jungle. As darkness began to fall they started to pick up sounds of movement close to their position. The LERPS mission was not to engage but to monitor only.
Hearing the movement they called for extraction. By the time the helicopter was rigged to lift out the troops hanging from a rope (STABO rigging) and transporting them to a safe place, darkness had engulfed the area. Once the rigging was complete we set out with two Cobra gunships as our cover birds. Once again with the LERP team in the jungle an LZ was located that would allow me to hover down low enough to get the ropes to the team on the ground.
Just a bit of reference here for those non-helicopter pilots that are reading this story. Hovering at 50 feet during the day with trees all around you is difficult at best, but when you do it at night with landing lights shining brightly to reference the ground and the LERP team reporting movement of possible hostiles in the area, I was not getting a warm fuzzy feeling with this extraction, even with two blacked out Cobras gunships circling above. My crew and I had already had our cherry popped and we were not relishing the thought of getting stitched up with AK47 fire again so soon.
We arrived at the extraction site and lowered the helicopter into the trees for the ropes to reach the ground. The Lerp team put their feet in the loops and attached their carabineers to the rope and off we went. I would have to admit that the thought of dragging them through the tree tops did come to mind for punishment for this night extraction, but I didn’t. When we touched down back at the base the team was so grateful for the extraction they gave us all their packets of LERP rations.
LERP rations were a dried food packet that you added hot water to rehydrate. My crew and I went back to my houch and heated some water with a piece of C-4 plastic explosive. We ate good that night compared to the 1947 C-Rations that we usually had to eat. After dinner, I felt better about not dragging them through the tree tops after all.
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