Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs

Wisconsin National Guard News



Wisconsin Guard bids farewell to Huey helicopters

By Larry Sommers, Department of Military Affairs, Public Affairs Office, May 4, 2009

After more than 38 years of faithful service to Wisconsin, the National Guard’s well-known Huey helicopter performed its last flight Sunday.

Wisconsin Army Guard aviators past and present honored the tough and versatile Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter — better known as “Huey” — Sunday, May 3 with an open house and a retirement ceremony at Army Aviation Support Facility #1, West Bend, home airfield of the Guard’s 832nd Medical Company (Air Ambulance).

The aircraft type first saw service in the U.S. Army almost 50 years ago, in June 1959, and came to the Wisconsin National Guard in 1970.

“Huey did for helicopters what the DC-3 did for airlines — Huey absolutely changed our Army,” said retired Brig. Gen. Kerry Denson in a 2006 interview. Denson, who flew Hueys in Vietnam combat missions, was the featured speaker at the brief ceremony.

Originally designed to fill the Army’s need for a more robust medical evacuation helicopter, the Huey proved so reliable and versatile that it was adopted for many other roles in logistics and combat. Bell Aircraft Corporation eventually produced more than 16,000 of them, plus thousands more of Huey’s civilian counterpart, Model 204.

In Vietnam, Denson said, “The Huey was, among many other things, the Soldier’s post office. Anywhere you landed, guys would come and hand in through the window their most precious possession — letters home.

“I’ve personally flown more than 20 aircraft types, and of them all, the Huey was the only airframe that I became emotionally attached to.”

The last UH-1 Huey helicopters in the Wisconsin Guard’s inventory were used by West Bend’s 832nd Medical Company for the aircraft’s original mission — medevac. They have been phased out in favor of a newer all-purpose helicopter, the UH-60 Black Hawk. The unit’s first Black Hawk went into service in May 2008 and the last three of nine aircraft are expected by July 2009; the last of its Hueys will depart West Bend Sunday after the ceremony, carrying Denson and present Wisconsin National Guard officials, including Brig. Gen. Don Dunbar, the adjutant general, back to Madison.

Honored guests, besides Denson, included Dunbar, U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. and Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, assistant adjutant general for Army.

Click For High Resolution Photo

Wisconsin National Guard officials fly away from West Bend on the state's final Huey helicopter flight. Wisconsin Army National Guard aviators, military veterans and members of the general public gathered to say good-bye to the UH-1 "Huey" helicopter in a ceremony at West Bend May 3, 2009. The legendary and beloved Huey has been replaced in the Wisconsin National Guard inventory by the UH-60 Black Hawk.

Click For High Resolution Photo

Ground crew members at Army Aviation Support Facility 1, West Bend, Wis., prepare Wisconsin's final operational UH-1 Huey helicopter for its farewell flight. Wisconsin Army National Guard aviators, military veterans and members of the general public said good-bye to the aircraft type in a ceremony at West Bend May 3, 2009. The legendary and beloved Huey has been replaced in the Wisconsin National Guard inventory by the UH-60 Black Hawk.

Click For High Resolution Photo

Retired Brig. Gen. Kerry Denson, at lectern left, addresses Wisconsin Army National Guard aviators, military veterans and members of the general public as they say good-bye to the state's final operational UH-1 "Huey" helicopter, pictured, in a ceremony at West Bend May 3, 2009. The legendary and beloved Huey has been replaced in the Wisconsin National Guard inventory by the UH-60 Black Hawk.
Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs photos by Larry Sommers.
Date Taken: 04.03.2009

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