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  • Writer's pictureSusan Reetz

Memory from a 117th AHC Sidewinder

We have been working on the Honor in the Air documentary project for over three years now. In about another month, we'll be ready to begin screening the film for Veteran groups, schools and film festivals.

It has been a pleasure and a privilege getting to know some of Captain Scott Alwin's family members and fellow Vietnam Veterans. We have heard so many stories about his sense of humor, his faith, his love of his family and friends, his courage and dedication to doing the right thing, and his heroism.

Here is one story from Jim Wade. He and Scott were in the same platoon in '71-'72 when Captain Alwin was the "Sidewinder" platoon leader with the 117th assault helicopter company. That is where he spent his last year in Vietnam.

Scott as fire team lead and myself as PIC of the wing ship were staging at a small dirt airstrip at Tay Nihn which was right on the Cambodian border. Scott and I were sitting next to our parked aircraft, chatting, while waiting to be called out on a mission. when there was a small explosion at the far end of the runway. I remember the conversation and what followed well.

When the first explosion occurred, I asked Scott, who'd been in Vietnam several years by that time, "what was that?" Scott replied, "I don't know but if it happens again I'm getting down." Moments later a second explosion occurred just a little closer to us than the first We immediately took cover by laying in a nearby small shallow drainage ditch. As we laid there, I heard my helicopter starting up. My co-pilot was in panic mode apparently. I told Scott I had to leave and ran to my helicopter. I took the controls and made a hasty take off.

What seemed like a moment later, Scott came over the radio, "Sidewinder 7 this is niner. I'm up. Let's see if we can see where the rockets are coming from." (Scott's call sign was Sidewinder 9). Almost immediately Scott saw where the rockets were coming out of a nearby jungle location. We were flying fully loaded mike model gunships so Scott called Tay Nihn tower for clearance to open fire on the rocketing location. The dialog went as follows:

(Scott) Tay Nihn tower this is Sidewinder niner.

(Tay Nihn tower) Sidewinder niner this is Tay Nihn tower.

(Scott) Tay Nihn tower I have a visual on the rocket location and request permission to open fire.

(Tay Nihn tower) Sidewinder niner please give us the eight digit coordinates of the rocket location.

(Scott without delay) Roger Tay Nihn tower, use any eight digit coordinates you'd like, we are going in. Sidewinder niner out.

To place this in context, it would be impossible to take out a map and plot the eight digit coordinates of a particular jungle location while in a doorless helicopter watching enemy rockets flying out of the jungle. It was typical Scott Alwin, calm and controlled in a stressful situation. As an aside, Scott was correct in returning fire. The rules of engagement provided that under those circumstances we were authorized to return fire, i.e.when you are being shot at you can shoot back. Thanks to Scott, we did.

I have such fond memories of Scott, the gentleman, the distinguished pilot and the leader.

Warmest regards, Jim Wade

We can't thank Jim and all the others who shared stories about their time with Scott, and all who shared their photos and video footage. We are forever grateful for your contributions to this project!

If you or your group are interested in scheduling a screening or other presentation for your group, please get in touch with Susan Reetz at 715.212.6239 or Pamela Alwin Fullerton at 715.675.4115.

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1 Komen

27 Jan

repeated Jim's story at a number of Veterans' groups; it gets a laugh every time and sometimes a tear. So many of those men we speak to were exactly that kind of soldier, that kind of hero. We appreciate every one of them.

And thanks for that wonderful story Jim, you brought my brother to life for me again....

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