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Face of Defense: Vietnam Vet Trains for Final Iraq Tour

By Army Spc. Carl Havlik
166th Aviation Brigade, Division West

FORT HOOD, Texas, Nov. 8, 2010 – Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Stephen Sanderson flew helicopters in Vietnam and still is flying today as a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot for the Vermont Army National Guard’s Company C, 3rd Battalion, 126th Medical Evacuation Regiment.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Chief Warrant Officer 5 Stephen Sanderson of the Vermont Army National Guard checks a flight book prior to a mission at North Fort Hood, Texas, Sept. 23, 2010. Sanderson’s unit is training for a deployment to Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Carl Havlik

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Sanderson’s unit is receiving training here from 1st Army Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade, preparing for a mission in Iraq that will be his final tour.

“I’ve done the jungle, not the desert,” he said. After enlisting in the Army in June 1969, Sanderson flew UH-1 Huey helicopters for an assault company in Vietnam during his first tour. He said he believes one of the biggest differences between the Vietnam War and current overseas contingency operations is that the draft filled the U.S. military’s ranks in the Vietnam era. In today’s Army, he noted, every soldier is a volunteer.

“This is the best-educated and motivated Army we have sent downrange,” Sanderson said. “These soldiers want to be here.”

Army aviation has also changed a lot since the Vietnam War, he said.

“There are a lot of preflight checks that have to be done now,” he explained. “Back then, we got our mission, drew up a plan right there and that was it.”

The equipment also has changed. Black Hawk helicopters are a lot tougher and more technologically advanced than the Vietnam-era Huey, Sanderson said. For example, new Black Hawks are equipped with digitized control panels and gauges, unlike the Huey and older Black Hawk models.

Sanderson, who recently celebrated both his 60th birthday and 40th anniversary of graduating from flight school, had a simple explanation for why he continues to fly. “It’s a privilege and an honor,” he said.


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The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

11/8/2010 3:10:44 PM
Dear CW5 Sanderson, "Greetings", my name is Steve Moberg. Well, some things never change, as far as volunteering "to go' for your country. I missed the "nam", however, I made the other engagement in SWA ('91-'92) as am M-day troop(individual augmentee). Missed an (duringpast 3yr's.) opportunity to serve my country, as I just turned 60yrs., too. However, its time to send a letter to the Bureau (ARNG) to see if they could still use me. I'm a Reserve(M-day) retiree with 20+ years of service who really missed it(Nam-era "only"), on active duty and there has been something tugging for over 3 years. As Yogi said, "It ain't over till its over". So I'll never know until I try, "Right" ? Please advise me(who-ever you may be). Sincerely, Mr. S.R. Moberg, Sgt., (Ret.)
- Steven R. Moberg, Anchorage, Alaska

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