Vietnam Veteran Tours Black Hawks at McGhee Tyson
By Staff Sgt Teri Eicher, 134 Air Refueling Wing
/ Published May 07, 2017
McGhee Tyson ANG Base --
When Bobby Pridmore walks into the room one can’t help but notice his striking black cavalry hat, which is decorated with gold braid and a multitude of neatly placed pins. What may look like decorative pins are actually distinguished military accolades he earned. Pridmore subtly displays his service history as he greets members of the 1/230th Assault Helicopter Battalion here.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brad Hutsell, an instructor pilot with the 1/230th AHB, invited Pridmore for the visit. He learned about Pridmore’s history as an airborne cavalry scout in Vietnam during 1966 through the local Veteran’s Affairs office, and was inspired to invite Pridmore to see the fleet of UH-60 Black Hawks currently in service here. Pridmore was introduced to Soldiers from the 1/230th, and shared photographs as he told the story of how he earned some of the awards on his hat. From jumping out of a helicopter to defend the survivors of a shot-down aircraft to fashioning a tourniquet from his belt to keep his pilot flying, Pridmore’s stories had an attentive audience.
"I think all of us came away in awe of what those soldiers went through in Vietnam,” Hutsell said.
Lt. Col. Patrick Wade, commander of the 1/230th AHB, presented Pridmore with a battalion cap and invited him to take a tour of the Black Hawks on the ramp. While they crossed the sunny tarmac Wade, Hutsell and Pridmore discussed the different role these helicopters have compared to the helicopter Pridmore knew in Vietnam. In conjunction with their medical rescue mission, the 1/230th has rescued sick hikers in the Smoky Mountains on ten separate occasions in the past year. Pridmore was impressed with the difference between the H-13 Sioux he remembered and the much larger Black Hawk. As Pridmore climbed into the copilot’s seat, he noted the second set of controls and joked that those would have been handy in 1966. As he described how he worked the foot pedals by hand for his injured pilot, Pridmore said he had a specific request when he was assigned a new pilot: “I said, ‘You’re going to teach me how to fly this thing,’ and I told my platoon sergeant I’ll never fly in another single control ship.” Although Pridmore was in the helicopter daily he was never piloting the craft, and his quick thinking helped his pilot control the helicopter and saved both their lives.
Pridmore humbly admits that he did his best to disappear after his time in the service, and feels very lucky to come through the conflicts he did. He said he enjoyed the tour, and sitting inside the Black Hawk was very interesting.
As he was leaving, Pridmore said, “Overall, everything’s been great. The people have been great. I’m just glad we were invited to come.”