Oct 02 - Oct 05, 2017:
173rd Aviation Company (Aslt Hel)More Details
1966 - 1984
MISSION: The mission of the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company was to provide tactical air movement of combat troops in airmobile operations, and to provide tactical air movement of combat supplies and equipment.
HISTORY: The 173rd Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light) was activated on 1 September 1965 and was initially assigned to the 10th Aviation Group at Fort Benning, GA. The 173rd Avn Co (Airmobile) (Light) remained at Fort Benning for organization and training until January 1966 when it began deployment to Vietnam. The main body departed Columbus, GA 15 February 1966 and arrived in Vung Tau, Vietnam 10 March 1966. The 173rd was assigned to the 1st Aviation Bridge's 11th Combat Aviation Battalion at Phu Loi and made their base at Lai Khe. The 173rd supported elements of the 1st, 9th and 25th Infantry Divisions in the III Corps, in the Tactical Zone north of Saigon. The 173rd Aviation Company underwent a name change and became the 173rd Assault Helicopter Company and operated as an element of Airmobile. The 173rd AHC served from 1966 to 1972 when the unit stood-down. The unit was awarded the Valorous Unit Award and the Meritorious Unit Commendation. SP4 Gary G. Wetzel was awarded our nation's most precious award, the "Medal of Honor" by then President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In September 1972, the 350th Aviation Company (Air Mobile), located at Fliegerhorst Kaserne, in Erlensee, FRG, part of the Hanau Military Community stood down and the aircraft and equipment was transferred to the restructured 173rd Aviation Company. The 173rd Aviation Company was a subordinate unit of the 11th Aviation Battalion located at Maurice Rose Army Airfield, Bonames, FRG, north of Frankfurt.At that time, there was a mixture of UH-1C and D models and AH-1s. Ultimately the unit would have 23 UH-1H helicopters equipped with the M-56 Mine Dispensing Units, broken up into 3 Flight platoons. There was also a Headquarters platoon and a Maintenance Platoon. The unit carried the nickname of The Robin Hoods and the field behind the billets was named Sherwood Forest. The unit remained until it was deactivated in the early 1980's.
Medal Of Honor Recipent -
SP 4 Gary Wetzel Medal of Honor - Date of Issue: 19 Nov 68
Sp4c. Wetzel, 173d Assault Helicopter Company, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life. above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Wetzel was serving as door gunner aboard a helicopter which was part of an insertion force trapped in a landing zone by intense and deadly hostile fire. Sp4c. Wetzel was going to the aid of his aircraft commander when he was blown into a rice paddy and critically wounded by 2 enemy rockets that exploded just inches from his location. Although bleeding profusely due to the loss of his left arm and severe wounds in his right arm, chest, and left leg, Sp4c. Wetzel staggered back to his original position in his gun-well and took the enemy forces under fire. His machinegun was the only weapon placing effective fire on the enemy at that time. Through a resolve that overcame the shock and intolerable pain of his injuries, Sp4c. Wetzel remained at his position until he had eliminated the automatic weapons emplacement that had been inflicting heavy casualties on the American troops and preventing them from moving against this strong enemy force. Refusing to attend his own extensive wounds, he attempted to return to the aid of his aircraft commander but passed out from loss of blood. Regaining consciousness, he persisted in his efforts to drag himself to the aid of his fellow crewman. After an agonizing effort, he came to the side of the crew chief who was attempting to drag the wounded aircraft commander to the safety of a nearby dike. Unswerving in his devotion to his fellow man, Sp4c. Wetzel assisted his crew chief even though he lost consciousness once again during this action. Sp4c. Wetzel displayed extraordinary heroism in his efforts to aid his fellow crewmen. His gallant actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.
The 173rd Aviation Company was activated at Ft Benning GA on 1 Sep 65, under GO 268, dtd 31 Aug 65, HQ III Army. The company was attached to the 10th Avn Gp as the 173rd Aviation Company (Airmobile) (Light) as commanded by GO 30, dtd 27 Sep 65, HQ, 10th Avn Gp, Ft. Benning, GA.
The 173rd Avn Co (Airmobile) (Light) remained at Ft. Benning, organizing and training until Jan 66 at which time the company began it's movement to the Republic of Vietnam.
The 173rd Avn Co (Aslt Hel) arrived in country with the nickname of the "Robin Hoods" and since their new home was under the rubber trees of Lai Khe plantation, the Robin Hoods designated the company area as "Sherwood Forest". In keeping with the tradition, The gunship platoon was nicknames the "Cross Bows", and the maintenance platoon section designated as "Friar Tuck", and the avionics section dubbed "Little John".
From the period of 18 Mar to 31 Mar 66, the unit was not yet fully operational, flew mission with other companies and assisted the 11th Aviation Battalion (Combat) with admin flights. The Robin Hoods continued throughout the month of April in a non-operational status. However, the unit was committed heavily in Operation Birmingham beginning 29 Apr 66. The Robin Hoods continued to support this 11th Avn Bn (Cbt) until 10 May 66, when the company was declared fully operational. This date was later declared as "Unit Day" for the 173rd Avn Co (Aslt Hel) by the Chief of Military History in Washington, D.C.