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Face of Defense: Vietnam Vet to Return from Iraq Duty

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher DeHart
12th Combat Aviation Brigade

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq, April 16, 2010 – It's a heady résumé: war hero, veteran pilot, commercial pilot, safety officer, father, grandfather, husband – and most recently - projects officer. With such an extensive list of credentials to his name, one would expect this soldier to be incredibly busy.

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Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 William R. Halevy recreates a pose from a 1971 photograph of himself taken in Vietnam. The photo depicted was taken March 25, 2010, at Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq, where Halevy is presently serving. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher DeHart
  

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However, while Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 William R. Halevy stays busy with his job, he never fails to have time for a smile and a friendly greeting to anyone who crosses his path, seemingly the nicest guy you could meet.

Halevy, who calls Jeffersonton, Va., home, is the Headquarters Company, 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, project manager, and he’s preparing to redeploy from his tour in Iraq.

"My primary role is the management of the ongoing construction projects and facilities management for the continued morale and welfare of the troops," he said.

For such an accomplished career brimming with accolades and achievements, it is remarkable that the headwaters of Halevy's military career are rooted in chance.

"I had a full scholarship to play baseball," Halevy said. "I was in the post office one day and saw the [recruiting] poster for Army Aviation. … It said you just need a high school education and a desire to fly. I went from basic training to flight school as a warrant officer candidate."

He since has established himself as a beacon of knowledge and respect within the Army. Throughout his 36 years of military service, he has been a member of Army Reserve and National Guard units in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida, holding positions ranging from a civilian emergency medical services pilot and aviation safety officer to his current position as a U.S. Army Forces Command aviation resource management survey inspector.

Halevy came to Iraq several months before the brigade arrived, but was asked to stay onboard to assist and offer his experience to the staff.

"I was in the process of redeploying with the 28th CAB, as their [transition of authority] to the 12th came a few months early - and my conversations with the safety and standards staff of the 12th made me feel I could stay and lend assistance to a [smaller] staffed organization," he explained.

"I had only joined the 28th five months prior to assist with several safety issues,” he added, “having been requested by the mostly Guard unit, and I was expecting to stay much longer."

Halevy continues his custom of offering quality workmanship and an unending cheerful attitude in his current position, planning and supervising various construction projects intended to improve quality of life and facilitate greater capability for all aspects of the task force's mission.

These projects include simple things such as modifying or improving the tactical operations center’s office space, initiating repairs on the aircraft maintenance shells, building a new chapel, and more.

He is about to finish his time in Iraq but, true to his work ethic, he has a few things he would like to be able to stick around for if he can.

"I would like to see the chapel through completion and throw the first pitch on the ball field,” he said. “A day off would be nice, but I don't think I will be able to work it in."

Previously, as the Army airfield safety manager for the 28th CAB, Halevy brought a wealth of experience to his role as an advisor to the brigade commander.

A veteran of the Vietnam War, Halevy also is a distinguished helicopter pilot, both militarily and commercially, flying more than 6,270 accident-free hours. Still, despite his vast experience and notable success as an aviator, Halevy's focus has centered on safety.

"I did it. I don't miss it," Halevy said of his days as a pilot. "I've moved on, and I [have focused] on safety. I came here to help."

Despite differences between the two aviation brigades, Halevy said, he admires what each brought to the mission.

"I knew many of the 28th CAB personnel, having worked at [the National Guard Bureau] for four and a half years, and then with the [aviation resource management] team doing their evaluations for six years," Halevy said.

"I thought the 28th did a commendable job of bringing together units from eleven states and then building their infrastructure, of which I'm still overseeing the developing," he said. "However, the 12th CAB's command and HHC present a greater synergy, having been working together much longer prior to their deployment.

"With my career spanning many years,” he continued, “I have been part of many units, and I have learned an organization is only as good as its performers and the leaders they support. The 12th has the best I've seen, and now I am one of you."

Halevy recalled where his career started and how things could have been back when he was flying over and through jungle canopies in Vietnam.

"I dedicate my continued service to Sgt. Gary Lee Westphal, who died 13 June 1971, while serving as my scout crew chief/gunner when he was hit by an enemy machine gun at close range while we were searching for a reported [North Vietnamese army] position north of Quang Tri, Vietnam," Halevy said. "He kept me alive through months of hostile fire with D Troop, 3rd Squadron, 5th Cavalry, 5th Infantry Division."

Halevy has focused all of that potential into his drive to do the best work he can at any task, and he does it all with one of the best attitudes a person can have who has done so much, soldiers here say.

Halevy, who will turn 61 this year, has no plans on slowing down after retirement. While he is looking forward to spending additional time with his wife, children, and grandchildren in the rolling hills of Virginia's Piedmont region, he also plans to devote time to his own hobbies.

"I just don't want to get sedentary after I retire," he said with a chuckle.

(This article includes portions of a previous unpublished article by Army Sgt. Brandon T. Metroka of the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade.)

 

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Chief Warrant Officer 5 William R. Halevy, then a 19-year-old helicopter pilot with D Troop, 3/5 Cavalry, poses for a photo in Quang Tri, Vietnam, in 1971. Courtesy photo  
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