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    OV-1 Mohawk homecoming honors Army aviation, Oregon National Guard history

    OV-1 Mohawk #926 Project

    Photo By Master Sgt. John Hughel | Members of the Oregon National Guard, retirees and other dignitaries gather for the...... read more read more

    SALEM, OR, UNITED STATES

    11.05.2019

    Story by Master Sgt. John Hughel 

    Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office

    SALEM, Ore. - The OV-1 Mohawk had an unusual mission, equally mirroring its peculiar appearance and unique place in U.S. Army aviation history. The twin-turboprop, two-seated, fixed-wing surveillance airplane flew on the field of battle over Vietnam, and later during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq; all the while helping secure the peace in Europe and Korea. Yet in the heart of many Oregon Army Guardsmen, it held a special place, flying significant operations above the Pacific Northwest skies for more than twenty years.

    A fleet, ranging up to nearly 21 of the curious ‘Bug-eyed, triple tail’ observation Mohawks flew out of McNary Field in Salem, Oregon from 1972 to 1992. Assigned to the 1042nd Military Intelligence (M.I.) Company (later reorganized at the 641st MI Battalion), the OV-1 was one of only two National Guard units flying the distinct aircraft. As the U.S. Army began to retire the entire airframe in the early 1990’s, several were sold to private buyers, while others were scrapped as the new Blackhawk helicopters were adopted globally by the Army.

    In the 27 years since the last OV-1 flight departed Oregon, one Mohawk has returned home and was distinguished during a symbolic exhibit ceremony on Nov. 2, 2019. Mohawk #926 is now the centerpiece display aircraft at the Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF), in Salem, honoring many of the Pilots and Soldiers who flew this idiosyncratic airframe during its service to the U.S. Army.

    As the host for the formal dedication ceremony, Brig. Gen. William Prendergast, Oregon National Guard Land Component commander linked the two-decades of Mohawk operations to the next generation of Oregon aviators and Guardsmen.

    “This dedication of this outstanding aircraft is a celebration of Oregon Army Guard aviation and those from Oregon who flew the OV-1 Mohawk in war and peace,” he said, praising the volunteers who worked on Mohawk #926. “Projects such as this, tie the past, present and future into one rich story.”

    Supporting those future missions, Prendergast acknowledged that the distinct appearance of the display and aircraft will provoke a great deal of curiosity to those driving by the Deibert Flight Facility at the AASF.

    “What is old is new again as the military looks to create a new light attack aircraft in support of current operations,” Prendergast said.

    THE MOHAWK #926 PROJECT

    In late 2015, the Mohawk #926 Project began when Capt. (Ret.) Gary Clark and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Chuck Rosenfeld (Co-Chairmen of the #926 Mohawk Project) started a discussion about acquiring a Mohawk for some type of static display at the AASF. By early 2016, Clark had found a company in Florida that had flown the OV-1 under an Army contract as late as 2005.

    While introducing many of the contributors to the project, Clark detailed meeting Mr. Paul Pefley, Mohawk Technologies, LLC Lantana, Florida, during the search for the Mohawk display. “When I first talked to Paul, he said he had two (Mohawks) airplanes in storage that he would recommend, and they might be what we were looking for (to restore). My next question-- were either one of them based in Salem?”

    It turned out that aircraft #926 was and would become the focus of the project going forward. After some initial fundraising, the airplane was purchased and made its way back home to Oregon in 2016.

    “We brought it out by flatbed truck, had a small celebration when it arrived, and soon after we spent nearly three and half years working on the aircraft,” Clark said.

    The evolutionary process of extending the OV-1 flying legacy honors beyond the missions of the Oregon National Guard took off from that point too.

    “In February of last year, we discovered that Lt. Col. Nopp and his T.O. (Staff Sgt. Kipina) had been found at the crash site of an OV-1C model on a mission in Vietnam,” Clark recalled. “We (Mohawk #926 Project) decided to also honor them as part of this overall display.”

    As Mohawk #926 becomes the centerpiece to a permanent display to the flying mission years with the Oregon National Guard, it also pays tribute to the service of Salem resident and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Robert G. Nopp, along with Staff Sgt. Marshall F. Kipina, who were lost aboard an OV-1 aircraft during the Vietnam war, and to Oregon National Guard Sergeant 1st Class (ret.) Kimberly D. (Robinson) Jark, the first female U.S. Army OV-1 Technical Observer (T.O).

    “At the beginning of this year, the Oregon Military Museum reached out to the project team because they thought Kimberly Robinson Jark might have been the first female T.O. to be qualified in the OV-1 Mohawk’s in the U.S. Army back in 1974,” Clark said, describing the third honoree addition to the Mohawk #926 display. “This unique piece of Oregon aviation history was later confirmed by the U.S. Army Intelligence Museum at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.”

    EARLY ORIGINS OF THE OV-1, ARRIVING IN OREGON

    The OV-1 program was started in the late 1950's and was awarded to Grumman Aircraft Corporation as a joint venture between the Army and Marine Corp. Many of the key designed specifications were developed to meet the needs of both services, which include the capability to fly in-and-out of smaller, rougher, forward airfields, and ten-year service life. The Marines pulled out of the project after the early production stage, leaving the subsequent prototypes consistent to meet the Army’s reconnaissance requirements.

    The aircraft was quickly thrust into service in the early 1960's with the building of the Berlin Wall in Germany, and in Vietnam with the increase of American military presence. In total, 380 OV-1 (A-D models) Mohawk were built between 1959-1970.

    “The OV-1 was such a unique aircraft, it had a variety of sensors and cameras,” Clark concisely described during the display ceremony. “For an airplane designed in the late 1950's, it truly was packed with interesting equipment.”

    Detailing those features, the airplane had multiple camera systems to include, a panoramic camera in the fuselage and in later models, a nose panoramic and a camera under the fuselage to provide along-track imagery. Night imagery could be obtained using an electronic photoflash and I.R. technology. Yet it was the proficiency of the Mohawk’s radar image capability that proved significant in both war and peacetime missions.

    The Side-looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) could map terrain, detect moving targets and ‘look through foliage.’ At the height of the Vietnam War, Mohawks units were flying reconnaissance missions over the Mekong Delta and along the Ho Chi Men Trail. In Germany, during the height of the Cold War, advances in the Mohawk SLAR capabilities, allowed for offset radar mapping, providing moving target indications along the East German and Czechoslovakia border.

    The first Mohawk arrived in Oregon in October of 1972 when a lone OV-1C model left the U.S. Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker, Alabama in route to Salem. Piloted by Stephen F. Hammonds, aircraft number 18948 would be the first of many OV-1’s assigned to the 1042nd. The unit would benefit with veterans of the Vietnam War as well as filling the ranks of the new unit with Citizen-Soldiers from all walks of life.

    “It was early on, while the initial training progressed, the Oregon Department of Forestry credited the infrared mapping capability of the 1042nd greatly improved the forest fighting abilities,” said Rosenfeld as he addresses those in attendance for the display dedication.

    With more than 250 people in attendance, many of the unit’s former members were at hand to see the alluring restoration on the brilliant autumn afternoon. Rosenfeld went on to describe a variety of missions, task and projects accomplished in those twenty years but most notably was the activities before and after the May 1980 volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens.

    “The geothermal activity began to attract the nation when Mount St. Helens started to heat up from 90 days before the massive eruption, we flew photo and I.R. missions on a daily basis,” Rosenfeld recalled with vivid details of the events. “The Big eruption, fortunately, happened on a drill weekend, we already had two aircraft in the air and by days end, we had flown more than a dozen more Mohawk missions.”

    Rosenfeld said that because of these surveillance missions and the work of the Oregon National Guard that, “Mount St. Helens is known for being the best-documented eruptions in human history -- unit members also personally briefed President Carter and the effected state Governors.”

    THE PROJECT RESTORATION COMES FULL CIRCLE

    One of the biggest moments in the project took place 10 days prior to formal dedication ceremony as Mohawk #926, fully restored, made a final voyage from the work hangar at AASF to the pedestal in front of the entrance. As the fully assembled aircraft was lifted, loaded to a flatbed truck, and then moved into place on the pedestal on Oct. 23, it hung gracefully in the air at times, as the sun began to break through the morning fog.

    With a pedestal pitching the aircraft pitched nose up in at take-off position, a ‘slightly rolled’ 5 to 10-degree angle to the side gives the displayed Mohawk a valiant pose ‘on its a final landing spot.’

    A group of volunteers, construction and project engineers watch like proud parents as the aircraft lifted, rose, rotated and then slowly descended into place. With notebook in hand, Ken Safe, Construction and facilities management officer, and project engineer for the stand and mount finally got to see how his math matched the design.

    “It (airplane) could easily go 50 percent more on the weight for this fixture and that taking in full wind gust conditions, snow load and all other safety considerations.”

    One of the more difficult unseen challenges was getting inside the belly of the aircraft to build support structures to keep the integrity of the airplane enact once it was mounted.

    Going through the drawings and specification, Safe said it was extremely complicated once inside. “Getting up into there (the airplane) we had to connect the wings to conjoin and transfer weight to all the structural members of the airframe.”

    “This project, it defiantly was a labor of love!”

    Holding one of the guiding lines of the aircraft, Jim Brown helped direct the Mohawk. With four large bolts, Chief Warrant Officer four Grant Rush and Gary Smith with Mike Adams Construction Company skillfully attached the airplane to the stand.

    “It’s bringing some of our history back,” said Brown, observing #926 finally attached to the pedestal and mounted into its new permanent home at the main AASF gate.

    Brown is a full-time technician for the Oregon National Guard, but also the Command Sgt. Major the 641st Aviation Battalion. He started working with (UH-1 Iroquois) Huey’s and (UH-60) Blackhawks but the OV-1 was here when he first arrived in 1987. Like many in the Oregon Army National Guard aviation community, the Mohawk represents more than just an airplane.

    “The Mohawk went away in 1992 so many of the members at that time were at retirement age and left when the airframe retired too,” he said, describing two generations ordained now toward one goal. “So on this project we’ve got guys from (age) 60 to 80 years old, working together with those of us still active in the unit-- we truly are one extended family in that sense.”

    Another great part of this story Brown said was learning about the Nopp Family. During the project, Lt. Col. Nopp along with Staff Sgt. Kipina’s crash site was found and their remains officially identified. “It was during this restoration period for #926 that we made this connection -- it really gave this project a deeper purpose.”

    At the dedication ceremony on Nov. 2, Lt. Col. Nopp’s widow Patti Nopp, along with sons; Scott and Tim attended and were honored. With Christopher Witherspoon, representing his late mother, Sgt. 1st Class Jark, adding their story to the project reinforced their contribution and unique association with the Mohawk aircraft. In a larger sense, the local Salem community, the Oregon Army National Guard and U.S. Army aviation organizations all share a special connection to the #926 project.

    As the ceremony concluded Gary Clark echoed this sentiment to those present. “To those here today and to my Mohawk comrades, this project and exhibit is dedicated to everyone who was ever assigned to an OV-1 Mohawk unit worldwide.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 11.05.2019
    Date Posted: 11.05.2019 17:34
    Story ID: 350599
    Location: SALEM, OR, US 

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