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20 Years of Helicopter Experience (Otto Kroger)

It all started at San Marcos AFB, TX. In 1951 on a Sunday I arrived at the base and there was nothing on the flight line. When I reported for work the next morning the flight line was covered with a hundred of yellow Piper Cub airplanes.


I was told that line number two was mine to take care off making sure that the planes were turned around with fuel and oil. You could see how upset I was being a new mechanic fresh out of A&E school from Parks Air College.


Like they say you do what you are told. Well the next week the line-chief came along and said they were looking for some mechanics to train on helicopters. I was first in line.


We were sent to the other end of the base and I was assigned as assistant crew chief on an H-23 Hiller. I went to on the job training school in the mornings and worked with the crew chief the rest of the day.


Then I was upgraded to a larger helicopter which was an H-5 Sikorsky. They used this chopper to train pilots for air rescue in Korea.


Well you know how they say if you don’t make a mistake your not doing anything. The line chief came along and said, "Airman grease the servo chains." I took all the chains and laid them on paper on the hanger floor and greased them.


Along came the crew chief and he went nuts, however I had done one thing right I marked where all the master links were.


When the Sikorsky Tech Rep came I was the only airman that knew how to rig an H-5 from scratch. I then got my 43130 helicopter mechanic rating. I spent some time on the H-5 and made assistant crew chief.


I was selected to go to H-19 factory school in Bridgeport CN. When school was over it was time to pickup five new H-19 helicopters to be ferried to San Marcos. We had five pilots and five mechanics and off we went. But that’s another story.


I crewed the H-19 for about a year and made crew chief and received my 43150 mechanic rating.


Then orders come out assigning six other mechanics and me to the 4925th Atomic Test Wing at Kirtland AFB NM with a future assignment to Atomic Testing at Enewetok Atoll.


I never made it past Kirtland and was assigned to their YH-19 test helicopter on flying status and when I wasn't TDY with the chopper I was assigned to the record section of Quality Control.


I got some fixed wing time flying in our assigned B-25.


We were to get a special configured H-21 for test work. Master Sgt. Shaw and I were selected to go to factory school at Philadelphia PA. I made Staff Sgt. while I was at school. When we returned to Kirtland the plans for the H-21 were canceled.


When it was time to reenlist I went for an interview with Sikorsky as a Tech Rep and had the job. Instead I reenlisted for base of choice to Westover AFB MA with the 76th Air Rescue Squadron on H-19s. I also made my 43170 mechanic rating.


I stayed eight weeks and shipped out for Dhahran Saudi Arabia on H-19s. I stayed there for six months. They had to many seven levels and I was the first one there so I had to go.


I shipped out to North Africa, Sidi Slimane AB. Again an H-19 rescue outfit. I was on flying status and later made flight chief.


Time to move after six more months. This time I went concurrent to Germany the 83rd Air Rescue Squadron. They had 12-assigned H-19s and a C-47. I was assigned as dock chief.


We had chopper in sites all over Europe and did all heavy maintenance at Spangdahlem AFB Germany.


After a year as dock chief I was reassigned as Mobile Maintenance Chief for Europe. My crew was four men and myself. We were now under control of USAFE and traveled to where ever a helicopter went down or required special maintenance. After four years it was time to move again.


I got orders for Edwards AFB CA. I was assigned flight chief of the H-21 Test Support for X-15 Flight test. We had six assigned H-21s.


After 18 months I was selected to go to CH-3 school at the Stratford CN Sikorsky factory. I was Test Maintenance Coordinator for all CH-3 Programs. I was on the selection team for the CH-3 buy at Wright Patterson AFB OH.


When it was time to pickup Edward’s CH-3 I spent time at the factory till the aircraft was ready. I flew the test flight for the Air Force and ferried the chopper to Edwards for Cat 2 Testing.


But the Air force had other plans for me. I was shipped out by name and serial number to Eglin AFB FL. It was for a special test on the CH-3 to see if the Air Force could support the Army in the field.


We had to ship twelve CH-3s in six C-133s over 2000 miles and have them operational in 24 hrs. We did the test and had the CH-3s ready in the field for the war-game named Gold Fire in southern MO. The test lasted one year.


Then half of the team was shipped to the 6593rd Test Squadron at Hickam AFB Hawaii. We were backup for "Catch a Falling Star" and we had Six Navy CH-3Bs and worked off of two ships.


After three year I was to go back to Edward but they changed my orders and sent me to Flight School at Eglin FL and then to DaNang Vietnam where I was night line chief, training NCO, and heavy maintenance recovery.


After ten months I went home on emergency leave a result of a death in the family. I didn’t go back to Nam and was assigned to MacDill AFB for about an hour, as they already had three MSG’s.


I called Headquarters and got assigned to Patrick. I was the ranking NCO so I was assigned Line Chief. We had CH-3s and supported the Space Program. We also did maintenance on aircraft returning from over seas.


I had enough and I was on the list to return to SEA and my kids were starting college so I decided to hang it up.


I retired June 1971 with the Meritorious Service Award.

(Otto Kroger)