What The Hell Is A Casper Platoon

Written by: Stephen Greene

Warrant Officer Steve Greene was a Pilot in Casper Platoon from early 1967 to 1968.  In his story, he recalls arriving in Vietnam and being assigned to Casper Platoon.




The Army's 173rd Airborne Brigade was the first ground unit to enter combat in Vietnam. They stayed from 1965 to 1971. The 173rd, one of the most distinguished units of that war were paratroopers. Casper Platoon was the internal aviation unit for the brigade. It is said they were the only separate aviation platoon during the war.


As a new pilot just past my twentieth birthday I arrived in Vietnam. Some came to war in ships loaded with people and equipment, some came in military airlift command planes. Most of us came on civilian airliners chartered by the military. Along with 140 other young pilots and a few other non-aviator types, unfortunate enough to be stuck in an aluminum tube with us, we arrived at Bien Hoa airbase on a Continental Airlines 707.

If I could have hidden out in the jet and gone right back over the Pacific Ocean, I would have. It wasn't that I was afraid. I almost certainly was. I just didn’t know it. I should have had plenty of fear. Vietnam was such an alien place and environment. Flight and Warrant officer candidate school, the military in general, are neat and tidy. War is not. A gleaming Boeing 707 sitting on a military airfield, surrounded by a weird assortment of military vehicles, men in disheveled fatigue uniforms, against a panorama of low jungle, dust and burning feces. It was anything but a neat and tidy place.

I always liked the heat. I never liked the cold. I was not disappointed. The jungle heat didn't bother me. Now, I didn't march through the mountains with 90 or 100 pounds on my back like our grunts did. I might have felt differently about the heat if I had had to.

From Bien Hoa airfield, we were put on buses and the surreal adventure continued. The buses had metal panels bolted to the windows as a very small measure of protection against small arms fire or grenades. Theirs and ours. What they really provided was the same unrealistic filter that our country, back in the world, viewed the war and its involvement. The panels only made seeing out a task that made what was around us all the more unbelievable. Winding streets choked with military vehicles, bikes, pedi-cabs, and motor scooters loaded several deep, and people. We were at war, but our narrow vantage point only yielded what looked like an occupied bustling third world sprawl.

We were on the way to the Long Binh replacement depot. When you arrived in Vietnam, as a new hire, you were sent here to receive further orders and in processing. We were no exception. My three flight school roommates and I had orders to go to the 173rd airborne brigade. When we arrived at Long Binh all that changed.

We felt like puppies that had just turned 8 weeks old , watching as our new owners where jostling for position to see who would take each of us home. Pick me, pick me. We each at an emotional attachment to our randomly being selected to got to the “Herd”, as the 173rd was affectionately know. Our new orders were cut. I ended up being the only one of our 4 going to the 173rd. My flight school associates went all over the country to units most of us had never heard of. Many of us would never return.

The separation anxiety from our pack mounted for each of us. I do not recall having to sleep with an alarm clock or other device to substitute for separating from guys we had spent most of the past year with day and night. I soon adapted to my new pack. The Casper Aviation Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters, Company, 173rd Airborne Brigade (separate), 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment.



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This site was last updated 05/15/06