The Jolly Green Association held their 2006 reunion in Ft. Walton Beach, FL on May 5th and 6th, 2006. I was only able to attend the banquet dinner on May 6th. I looked diligently for some other members of our 'Rotorhead' group ... but was not successful in locating any. (Note: It was discovered later that fellow Rotorhead Otto Kroger was in one of the pictures.)
I had a very enjoyable evening conversing with a Jolly pilot (I'm the worlds worst with names and even though he gave me his ... I can't remember now what it was ... damn CRS again) who sat next to me at the banquet.
He was a conversion pilot off of KC-135's and was with the Jolly's at Udorn '68-69 time frames. He was there just as they were converting to HH-53B's, in fact when he first arrived, because he was still current on the H-3's from conversion school, he was sent to NKP for a couple of weeks to help beef up a pilot shortage with the Jolly H-3 unit there.
When he rotated back to the States, he was assigned to the 39th ARRW at Richards-Gebaur, AFB, MO in the command and control office. He said he was involved in the rescue of three survivors of a special ops H-3 that had crashed in a mine field and burned.
I'm wondering if that was the crash J.D. was in? One of the other pilots at the table mentioned the name 'Harvey Meltzer' and when I ask, he said he was with Harvey in the 703rd at Shaw on the H-3's ... unfortunately; I didn't get his name either (told you I was bad with names!).
The missing attendees’ ceremony was conducted where a Pilot, Co-Pilot, Flight Engineer and P.J.’s caps were laid on the empty table at the front of the room and then the guest speaker was introduced.
The guest speaker was Dick Rutan who, with Jeana Yager, in December 1986 piloted their plane, the Voyager, to become the first to circumnavigate the world, nonstop, without refueling. Dick had multiple tours in Vietnam and in September 1968, while flying as a F-100 Misty FAC, was shot down in North Vietnam. He was rescued by a Jolly Green crew piloted by a Coast Guard exchange pilot named Lonnie Mixon. Lonnie was in attendance last evening ... kinda neat!
During his service time Dick was awarded the Silver Star, five DFC's, 16 Air Medals and a Purple Heart. He was also presented the Civilian Medal of Honor by President Regan, for his Voyager mission, one of only 14 ever presented up till the time he received his.
Dick gave a very passionate presentation, with slides and a short film of the Voyager's take off from Edwards (it took them almost 2 minutes to get off the ground and they used up damn near the entire length of longest runway in the world).
It was quite obvious that this was a dream come true for him and his brother, and the rest of the crew who all hand built the aircraft, spent over two years seeking funds and planning and training for this round the world attempt.
I used to think that a 6 or 7 hour, no-stop, aerial refueled mission in an H-3 was long..... Their round the world, non-stop, non-refueled flight lasted about nine and a half days ... THAT'S 9 1/2 DAYS.... DAYS, I said!!
Unlike a H-3 where we could move around, their cockpit had enough room for one to be in the pilots seat (which was floor level and on the right side) and the other to be laying on a mat on the floor to the left side of the pilots seat, to change positions it was a contortionist trick to twist and turn over and under each other to make the switch.
A great quote from him was the following; “If You Can Dream It You Can Do It”. Dick, his brother Burt, Jeana and all the other volunteers who helped accomplish this amazing feet of aviation history are proof that Dick believes and lives by that quote.
The Voyager aircraft now hangs over the main entrance to the Smithsonian Air & Space museum on the Mall in Washington D.C. and I saw it when I was in D.C. in ’04, I’ll include a picture of it that I took while I was there.
After Dick’s presentation three of the crew members of two HH-60’s were presented with the Jolly Green Association’s Mission of the Year award for a rescue and recovery of two severely wounded U.S. solders’, one U.S. KIA and three wounded Iraq citizens.
Dick presented the Pilot, a Major, with the plaques and the Major gave a little acceptance and thank you speech to the group. I was very impressed with him because he not only stated he was accepting the honors on behalf of all the crews of both choppers (most of whom are still deployed and could not attend last night), but he was also accepting these honors on behalf of all the maintainers who keep their helicopters airworthy and safe to fly. He spoke glowingly of their maintenance troops and how they spend long hours and hard work to keep their bird’s mission ready and far too often never receive the recognition they deserve.
As the evening presentations were about to close the Jolly Green Association President read from a letter sent by General Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff, praising the accomplishments of Combat Air Rescue and reiterating his commitment to see that U.S. rescue forces will receive his full support now and into the future to maintain the U.S. Air Force Combat SAR forces at the top rescue force in the world.
A very pleasant evening and a good meal.