SP-4 Stan Babb

Dolphin 676 Crewchief

I came to the 174th in mid May of 1971, fresh out of gunner school as a Spec-4. I stayed a Spec-4 until I was discharged. I enjoyed gunner school, learning the theory of turbine engines and flight was very interesting. The flying during door gunner school I found exhilarating.

A younger and lighter me.

I was promoted to PFC at the end of the helicopter maintenance classes, then three weeks later at the end of gunner school I was promoted to Spec-4. I was told that those who finished in the top three were then promoted. I don't know if that was true, but to think I did good in both did make me feel good, and of course happy to get the promotion. None of the guys I was hanging with got the two promotions back to back.There were four of us that came to the 174th at the same time. We reported to the CO and he asked if we wanted to fly. Two of us did and two didn't. I think I went to the 1st platoon and the other gunner that wanted to fly went to the 2nd platoon, the other two must have gone to maintenance.

I was put into an open hootch with Joe Almada and a few other gunners and crew chiefs in the 1st platoon, of coarse their names have evaded me. Joe came back into my memory when I read Mark Klindts bio with a photo of Joe stating that Joe was a tunnel rat before becoming a gunner, and that triggered my memory of him. I think he was the first guy that I met when I was given the bed. I remember thinking I would definitely not want to be a tunnel rat. It wasn't long until I found an empty enclosed room a couple hootches down and moved into that room. I had already bought a small fridge from someone. Always loved music so it wasn't long till I went to the PX and bought a reel-to-reel. One of the guys from 2nd platoon saw it and said he had been wanting a reel-to-reel. He asked if I would trade it for a complete stereo system with a large stack of all the newer Rock albums. I couldn't turn that down, so we traded. Now I was all set up.

Stealing a few moments in the cockpit.

Initially I flew as a roving gunner with different crew chiefs -- probably giving the gunners a day off one at a time. I then flew C&C (Command & Control) missions as Mark Klindt's gunner for a while. The company must have been short on crew chiefs because the sarge asked me to fly crew chief on the Dolphin slick 676. Craig Carey who was from Idaho was my gunner. Dolphin 676 was an ugly looking bird and its name reflected that (just can't remember it). It was a negative type of name kinda cutting the bird down. The tail number page has it as coming into the company in June of '69 and staying until stand down. It may have been destroyed in Typhoon Hester, many were. It logged over 2700 hours while in the company, so it was fairly active.

It probably had been in some previous crashes, as it had a gray tail boom on it like it had been replaced at some point and never fully repainted. It already had its name when I got it, but for the life of me I cannot remember what it was. It did not have specific pilots assigned to it while I was flying in it, pilots came and went. Maybe no one wanted to have that ugly bird as his! As ugly as it was, it did seem strong to me and we never had any mechanical problems with it. We could fill the bird with 11 or 12 passengers and not notice a strain. Since I wasn't the one pulling up on the collective, the pilots may have had a different opinion. On one hot extraction of ARVN's, they were wanting out bad. They filled the bird very fast and they kept coming, since there was no more room in the cargo compartment two ARVN's decided if they pulled me out they could take my seat. They both grabbed my arms and tried to pull me out. Since I had a good hold on my mounted M-60, that didn't work. I immediately radioed this to the pilot while kicking them away. Even with the bird packed, fully loaded, it lifted up very quickly.

I don't remember who the pilots were on 676 the day of this next incident. We were just flying along high enough for me to be relaxed and think we were out of danger when I heard a beep inside my helmet. Even though we were all taught in school, it didn't dawn on me what it was. Thankfully the pilot that was controlling the bird at that time recognized the signal and reacted quickly to it. He dropped the collective and we immediately dropped fast. A second later the explosion of the missile went off just above us on my side. If not for the pilots quick thinking I would not be here to tell of his heroism. He had just saved his crew, and since I would have killed us all if I had of been in control of the aircraft, I immediately radioed him my gratitude. I sure wish I could remember who he was so I could give him the credit he deserves by naming him, so all would know of his heroism. Thankfully I was never shot down or involved in a crash, but did get bounced around some on a couple of hard landings from overshooting small hilltop LZs on an aggressive approach.

One of my favorite memories is that, on one of my initial flights, we were sent to the beach because there was a shark swimming too close to the Chu Lai beach. I don't remember if there were any swimmers at the beach or not. Probably some being there is why they wanted the shark to be gone. We found the shark very quickly. We circled to the right, therefore I was the one to fire on the shark. It only took a few tracers till the water started turning red. I remember the pilot in the right seat getting all excited, telling everyone on the radio HE GOT IT! HE GOT IT! Since I was a newbie and I think that was the first time I had fired my M-60, I had the feeling my abilities were being tested. With this I can say that I did get one confirmed kill during my tour. This kill I did not feel bad about and felt no guilt.

I enjoyed the treetop flying and the fast maneuvering flying. Hammerheads while carrying prisoners was always fun, watching them getting scared, hands tied and grabbing for anything they can get a hold of is another great memory. Should this be considered torture?

I flew for about three or four months. Then, since I had a military drivers license, I was given the job of driving the perimeter each night making sure the guards were awake and aware. There was no excitement doing this, like the CAs. It was actually rather boring but I was pretty much on my own. I could do what I wanted and wasn't really worried about getting hurt. I continued doing this until stand down.

Before I left Chu Lai I got to go to Hong Kong on a seven-day leave. I went with the CO's jeep driver (can't remember his name either). I was saving my R&R with plans to use it to go to Sidney, Australia later, but never got the chance. At stand-down both Craig and I were transferred to another aviation company in Phu Bai. They didn't need any gunners to fly so neither of us flew again. We finished our tour there, then both went back to the states on the same plane. I wish we had stayed in contact, but we didn't. Later, when I tried to locate him, I had no luck. Unfortunately, I found Craig's obituary online where he had passed at age 55.

After landing at Ft. Lewis, Washington I was offered an "early out." I was ready to go home so I took the offer. Since the Army was reducing its number of troops in country, they were letting some of the troops go home before their year was up. My Army career consisted of basic training, helicopter maintenance school, gunner school, and a nine month tour in the Nam.

I was still flying when we lost Big Al Harris, although I wasn't flying that day. When word got back to us at the hootch, we had to go look at the bird where the shell came thru the bubble. I remember a pretty large hole. I don't remember if I flew with Big Al much or if I ever did. The way they were shuffling our pilots I probably did. Besides losing one of our own, what bothered me even more was the thought of his wife already in Hawaii, waiting for him to arrive the next day. I'm sure she looked for him each day and had heartbreaking thoughts of why he was not getting there. Then eventually going home only to find that he was lost the day before he was to go to her. That bothered me every time I thought of it throughout the years, and still bothers me when I think of how she must have suffered. I kept thinking of her crying each day he didn't arrive and wondering why he was not coming, hoping it was flight problems and praying that he would get there soon, only to go home and have Officers show up at her door and give her the bad news. Since I was out of the loop driving the perimeter, I didn't even know we had lost a gunner after Big Al until I read it on this site. Both lost out by LZ Professional.

I do not have any photos of Dolphin 676 and, as I said earlier, cannot remember its name. If anyone knows the name or has photos of it, I would appreciate it very much if you were to email them to me. If anyone knows the CO's jeep drivers name during 1971, I would like to try to contact him. Or if anyone has heard someone tell the story of dodging the missile, I would like to find out who it was. My life was in his hands and he gave it back to me. I am forever grateful. You can get my e-mail by asking the webmaster (Jim McDaniel) for it.

After being discharged, I loafed and traveled for a few years, then married. My wife and I did college then moved to Kentucky after we graduated. We came to Kentucky during spring break of our last year and fell in love with the beautiful countryside. I worked as a millwright in the maintenance department of a factory. We now live in the country in a beautiful log home, with excellent views, sitting on a hilltop between Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky.

At the end of April 2019 we celebrated our 40th anniversary. Our son, his wife, and our grandkids live in the nearby town so we get to have the grandkids quite often. I feel blessed to be where I am today. I have some health problems as we all do at our age. I have beaten up my body thru the years and now its getting back at me. I'm thankful to have a pretty good VA hospital nearby in Louisville that is only about 35 miles from my house, so not a bad drive. University of Louisville offers different medical degrees and I think the VA utilizes the college where it can.

I would be honored to hear from any member of the 174th, no matter the year you served. If any of you are close to me, let's have dinner and get acquainted. I'll buy the first round! I don't check my email regularly, but I will answer if I get one from anyone. In the photo below (taken from Mark Klindt's bio asking for their identities), the second from the left wearing sunglasses I think is a pilot that went by the nickname of Bojangles. He flew Dolphin 676 quite often. It seemed we were always getting different pilots but I think Bojangles was there more than others. I don't remember his actual name. It has been a long time and my memory was never the best, so I could be mistaken thinking that he is Bojangles. If anyone can confirm this please do so.

I believe the second from left is "Bojangles." Anyone ID the others?

Me with my new-found friend Mel Lutgring.

Mel and me at an event just outside Ft. Knox on 4-12-2019. Mel's "Flag Of Honor" is terrific. Mel was flying as crew chief with an amazing group of Huey lovers, "American Huey 369." American Huey 369 is in the process of building a Huey Museum in Peru, Indiana to showcase Huey helicopters and Huey memorabilia. They have fully restored two UH-1H slicks and one UH-1B gunship and fly them to events in the Midwest to offer others the joy of flying in a Huey.