M. Arthur Stebelton - Vietnam Veteran

U.S. Army aviation began in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma in the area where Native Americans were "resettled" on reservations in the 1800s. To honor the different tribes, army officials named helicopters after them. The one exception was the Bell AH-1 Cobra, which was a gunship. The army was concerned that the implication that Native Americans were warlike would be offensive. Not so at all, said the tribal leaders. There were plenty of aggressive tribes to name gunships after. Subsequently, gunships were named Apache, Kiowa and Comanche.

This is how the helicopter Art was crew chief for came to be named the Cayuse. It was a light observation airship. In the air cavalry, it was the scout of a hunter-killer unit that trained together prior to going to Vietnam. The others in the unit were the lift, a utility helicopter like the Iroquois, the weapons helicopter like the Cobra, and the rifles, the infantry. Art's helicopter was an OH-6, an airship that carried a pilot, and observer and sometimes the crew chief. One mounted gun on the left was augmented by guns fired out the windows by the observer and crew chief. The Cayuse flew below the tree tops until it spotted the enemy. Smoke marked the area to be attacked. Then the rest of the unit followed, each doing their job. The unit and their helicopters boarded an aircraft carrier for the trip to Vietnam. On the 21 day voyage, paper money representing coins were gradually exchanged for metal coins as soldiers purchased items in the PX. No telltale clinking in a pocket would give away a soldier's presence to an enemy. The soldiers were close as a fighting unit and remained close after their service. After more than 40 years Art is still in contact with several buddies from their time in Vietnam.

JoAnne P. Miller