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    Going full circle: Soldier ends Iraq tour with same unit from Vietnam War


    Courtesy Photo | Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Alford, 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment of the...... read more read more

    Few Soldiers can claim to have a career spanning 38 years, but one pilot on the LSA not only has those bragging rights, but can also say he concluded his career with the same unit he began it with.

    Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Alford began his military career as a pilot in Vietnam with Company A, 4th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment in 1967, and recently was able to fly with the very same company in Iraq.

    Alford arrived in Iraq last year with his National Guard unit, 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regt., from Rhode Island, and has been flying UH-60 Blackhawk missions throughout the country.

    Alford said the veterans of Company A form a very active network and he learned through Internet correspondence that his old unit, nicknamed the Comancheros, was deploying to Iraq to the very same base as his current National Guard unit.

    After that, it was just a matter of touching base with his former unit to arrange to go out on a mission and come full circle in his military career.

    "Before they even arrived in country, I had been e-mailing back and forth," Alford said. "So I had a good idea when they arrived in country and what they were going to do. I sort of forced myself on them after that.

    "One of my first rides was with the Comancheros," he said. "I wanted one of my last flights to be with them. I don't plan on coming back again."

    The unique nature of Alford's mission also made an impression on current Comancheros.

    "To see something like this come about and materialize is one of the most motivating things that I could have for my Soldiers and myself," said 1st Lt. Robert Massey, a platoon leader for Company A.

    Alford, who works full-time for the Social Security Administration and lives in Framingham, Mass., said he left the military after his tour in Vietnam, but joined the National Guard in 1988 because he missed flying and the camaraderie of fellow Soldiers.

    Current members of Company A are aware of the unique pride that keeps their unit glued together and eagerly point out that they can trace their lineage back to Vietnam.

    Chief Warrant Officer 2 Joshua D. Havill, a Blackhawk pilot for Company A, said that in his 12 years of service, he never had a unit patch until he became a Comanchero and cited it as an example of how to establish unit pride.

    The unit develops a new patch for each deployment or mission. For Alford's last mission, he was able to put on the Comanchero's latest patch and gave his crew souvenir patches with the design he wore in Vietnam.

    "The standard for earning that patch is being fully-mission qualified," Alford said. "But you also have to be one of the guys, too. You have to earn it from your peers."

    Part of the bond the unit shares comes from the Soldier lifestyle.

    "You're away from home and 24-7 you're around each other," Massey said. "This is your family. You depend on each other.

    "It's the people that make the camaraderie, that's where the tradition lies," Massey went on. "The people that have come and gone from this unit, people that are motivated and excited to do the job make it fun."

    This enthusiasm is apparent in the Soldiers of the unit.

    "I think I'm blessed," said Pfc. Richard Montgomery, Blackhawk crew chief for Company A. "There's no other place I want to go. The people here are really wonderful and there are rich traditions. It sounds kind of corny, but I like it. It's a lot of fun, I love flying with these guys."

    Montgomery, who also flew with Alford during the mission, said Alford was very down-to-earth and answered the many questions posed to him, and Alford said he was able to mentor the current Comancheros because of his experiences in both Iraq and Vietnam.

    "You have to keep in mind that you can get shot at and die any day," he said. "You can't get complacent. You have to keep it in your head all the time."

    "I had a lot of questions for him," Montgomery said. "He told me everything I wanted to know."

    Montgomery said he was able to ask about Alford's experiences in Vietnam, how many flight hours he's logged, the types of aircraft he's flown and even his family.

    "Knowledge drips off the guy," Havill concurred.

    Alford said he enjoyed the flight he took with the Comancheros here.

    "It was great. I loved it. It was fantastic."

    Alford will be redeploying to the United States in December.



    Date Taken: 12.15.2005
    Date Posted: 12.15.2005 08:00
    Story ID: 4097

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