Pruitt, Gary – AZ
Born and raised in Grants Pass, Oregon. Joined the Air Force 1 November 1960. After attending Basic Military Training at Lackland AFB, TX and Firefighter Technical School at Greenville AFB, MS assignments included Hahn AB, Germany, Williams AFB, AZ, Bien Hoa AB, RVN, Back to Williams AFB, AZ, Yokota AB, Japan, Holloman AFB, NM, Nakhon Phanom (NKP) RTAFB, Thailand, Davis Monthan AFB, AZ, Langley AFB, VA and Nellis AFB, NV.
While at Williams AFB the first time I was deployed to Udorn RTAFB for five months. Additionally, I have been TDY to many AF bases including Howard AB, Panama, Keflavik Iceland, and Chaumont AB, France.
A very special time in my career was 1965 to 1969, when I was attached to Det. 16, Western Aerospace Rescue Recovery Center, at Williams AFB, TDY to Det. 5, 38 ARRS at Udorn and Det. 6, 38 ARRS at Bien Hoa as a fireman on HH-43B/F “Pedro’s.”
At Det. 5 (Udorn) we also had CH-3C and HH-3E helicopters where I begged a couple of rides. While at Bien Hoa I caught rides on Army UH-1 “Huey’s” whenever I could. Very special to me was a ride in the brand new “Cobra” gunship while at Bien Hoa.
At NKP I was a Assistant Fire Chief and knew many of the personnel in the 21st Special Operations Sq (CH-53) and 40 ARRS (HH-53) from my older days, which enabled me to catch rides in both types.
The last HH-43F I saw flying was at NKP in late 1974 just before it was taken out of service.
I retrained out of the Fire Dept. in 1977 and spent the rest of my AF career in people jobs, Social Actions, Personnel, and Family Support Center. I retired in 1989 as a Senior Master Sergeant (E8).
After working for several years in a Auto Parts store in North Las Vegas, NV., I was offered and accepted a civil service position at Nellis AFB in the Family Support Center.
After 14 years and age 62 I retired from civil service and took early social security.
My wife and I were married 29 November 1964, raised a daughter and son who have blessed us with eight wonderful grandchildren. We are full time RV’ers and have a place in a retirement community in Beaver Dam, AZ where we park the RV in the winter. We travel when and where we want to.
Retirement is great. But, I have the most fondest memories of my days flying around in the old HH-43. While I have flown in many different types of aircraft (A1E, T-28, T-38, T-37, C-123, AC-130, AC-47) helicopters are special, especially the old HH-43 and UH-1.
There is nothing like hearing the engine spinning up, the shake rattle and roll after the rotor brake is released and vibration when going from a hover to forward flight. Those were the days.
While at Davis Monthan AFB I had access to the aircraft storage area. In 1976 I located about 70 HH-43s, several of which I had flown on. They were just sitting there in the weeds and dirt. Sad to say the least.