Battle Creek, Michigan, Dec. 2, 2016 —
After six decades of service, the Army is retiring what are thought to be the last of its flying UH-1 “Huey” Iroquois helicopters.
A former soldier who once flew in Hueys now serves as a civilian in the Defense Logistics Agency, where she is working to help old warbirds migrate to active retirement.
Hueys left active duty decades ago, replaced by the UH-60 Blackhawks, but kept finding honest work behind the scenes.
That included filling support roles for Redstone Army Arsenal in Alabama, New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, and the Army proving grounds at Yuma, Arizona.
Yuma was where Casandra Radig-Madden first served in the Army, as a supply specialist who ordered parts for the Hueys and flew aboard the aircraft Today she is the aircraft specialist in the DLA Disposition Services Law Enforcement Support Office in Battle Creek, Michigan.
And today specific aircraft she knew at Yuma are going out to law enforcement agencies.
“At first it just hit me how ironic -- I mean to ever think that when I was 18 there, just being a supply person in the Army and now being at the disposal end of it -- seeing them go to law enforcement,” Radig-Madden said. “I think one of the people said it best in an email, it’s an active retirement for these aircraft.”
Yuma is turning over four Hueys to go to law enforcement thru DLA Disposition Services, she said, while White Sands Missile Range and Red Stone Arsenal are each turning in three.
The police departments that will get the Huey are already identified. According to Radig-Madden there were more requests than there were Hueys. She said most law enforcement agencies said the aircraft would be used for search and rescue, similar to one of the many kinds of missions Hueys performed in Vietnam.
One of the Hueys from White Sands came to Michigan.
Sgt. Jerry King is a departmental line pilot with the Michigan State Police Aviation Unit and was one of the Michigan State troopers that went out to New Mexico to fly the H model Huey back to Michigan.
King will fly the Huey once it is given a makeover and said it will be used as a utility helicopter. It may fly search and rescue, perhaps eventually be rigged for firefighting, and will be able to carry a special weapons and tactics team.
“Airframe-wise, helicopters are fairly unique. It’s a pretty beefy helicopter, and they are built pretty stout,” King said. “It’s already 45 years old, but it passed all the inspections, the airframe is in great shape. We can probably fly this thing for a couple hundred hours a year, and I foresee us using this for 10 to 12 years.”
That’s truly active retirement.