With a Caribou, Mohawk, Bird Dog, Hueys, and Cobras, Army aviators are teaching the loudest history lesson you ever heard.
- By Shelby G. Spires
- Air & Space magazine, November 2003
(Page 4 of 6)
“So far in the three years we’ve been going to airshows, we have always been able to get all the aircraft there and put on a show with all the aircraft,” says Woodward. “And that has a lot to do with the level of experience of the people here.”
The hangars at Tara Field start filling up with volunteers around 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, at the end of the real-job day, and on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. Woodward says there are 30 to 45 volunteers living in the area who show up for work regularly. The privilege of attending an airshow—of flying an aircraft there or staffing the static displays to talk to the many visitors—is earned by spending hours at the hangars, working on aircraft, canvassing suppliers for needed parts, sweeping the floor, or answering the phone. A typical airshow performance lasts about 40 minutes and requires days of preparation: Volunteers ready the pyrotechnics, test navigation systems, and conduct dress rehearsals at Tara Field.
“Like any human resource operation, it’s a matter of matching skills with desires,” says Woodward. He laughs. “We have some people that I push away from aircraft maintenance.”
Woodward keeps a roster, and any volunteer who builds up 100 hours—“sweat equity,” Mike Brady calls it—earns a ticket to an airshow. Jeff Clark, who as a member of the Georgia Army National Guard had worked on UH-1 Huey helicopters and as a crewman on OV-1 Mohawks, earned the coveted position of door gunner—the view is great—on the Hueys during the Vietnam assault portion of the show. “I was in the Army, and I left for my own reasons, but this is as close to having that brotherly camaraderie as you’ll ever find anywhere,” says Clark. “You don’t have all the politics and the personalities with this group.”
Dick Teipel says, “It’s just like being in a military unit. The leadership structure is there, and everybody has a job.”
Last year, three volunteers each accumulated more than 700 hours: Ron Disney, a recently retired Federal Aviation Administration controller who flew CH-47 Chinooks in Vietnam; Ron Warner, another former CH-47 Chinook pilot and licensed A&P mechanic, who trains 727 pilots for Delta Air Lines; and Glenn Carr, a retired lieutenant colonel and Army pilot who flew CV-2 Caribous and, he says, just about everything else the Army had to lift men and material off the ground in the 1960s. Carr is known by the guys at Tara Field as “Grumpy” on some days and on others as “Papa ’Bou.”
In the spring of 2002, Carr spent weeks cutting and polishing a plywood floor for the foundation’s Caribou, one of several jobs he undertook to restore the aircraft to its 1962 appearance. He pieced together enormous sheets of plywood to fashion the floor of the Caribou’s spacious cargo section, fitting them like puzzle pieces and cutting complicated, asymmetrical holes to match the placement of tie-down handles.
“He didn’t let anybody get up there on it for the longest time if they had shoes on,” said Dick Teipel. “He didn’t want any scuff marks on it. A lot of time and love went into that floor. Mostly it was hard work.”