MY TRIBUTE TO WARRANT OFFICER BRUCE HASKELL (DECEASED AT THE YOUNG AGE OF 39)

When I arrived at B Company Lancers, I was immediately assigned to Warrant Officer Bruce Haskell for my orientation flight. Bruce was to show me our area of operation. I flew right seat with him on two orientation flights. What I hope to do is shed a little light on what kind of person Bruce was.

Bruce was soft-spoken, about 5-foot 10 or so inches tall with blonde hair. He was heavy set, but not over weight.  In the Lancer 1970 year book his picture is right next to mine. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was a good thing because every time I look at that book he is always there. He is always by my side. Bruce has never left my memory since that day in 2003 when I opened up the Lancer  although I remember him for many reasons since I dusted off that old dark blue year book. What made it extra special was that when I found out in 2003 that he was deceased, I was taken back at how young he died. It truly saddened me.

Most of all I admired his cheerful attitude and coolness under pressure which I was about to find out on this very first orientation flight. The monsoon season was just ending, so we had some low clouds (not enough to keep us on the ground, but not a lot of flying going on). There was a drizzle in the air, but we got around just fine and I was able to observe one or two LZ’s (their names escape my memory today).

We were no more than 30 minutes into the flight when a LOH pilot came up on GUARD asking for help. He had been flying low level checking out a hedge grove / tree line when he came under fire. His Crew Chief was hit and fell out of the aircraft into the wet tall grass. Bruce immediately got on the radio and told the LOH pilot that we were on our way to assist. Most of you know that a LOH is flown by a single pilot, so all he could do was circle the area in an attempt to keep the enemy away from, his Crew Chief. That was very risky since he had no idea how many VC were in the tree line. He could have easily been taken out by an RPG or ground fire.

We arrived within 5 to 10 minutes due to our close proximity and Bruce’s knowledge of the area. Bruce never hesitated, he simply told the crew that we were going in and we would get that wounded Crew Chief. We arrived in no time, the LOH pilot providing us with overhead cover as best as he could, and our door gunner was laying down suppressive fire with his M-60 machine gun. Our Crew Chief was out of the chopper before we even hit the ground. He ran over ducking as low as he could. He grabbed his wounded   “brother” under his arms and drug him back to our chopper. We were off the ground and immediately headed to the nearest field hospital unit. After we took off with Bruce still at the controls, I turned around to check out the condition of the wounded soldier. His face was ashen gray, but I was unable to tell how bad his wounds were because he was wearing those Army rain slickers (as I called them). Our Crew Chief was cradling him in his arms in an effort to comfort him. He was talking to him, trying to keep him alert, but I could not hear what he was saying due to the background noise. But I am certain that he was reassuring that wounded crew chief that he was going to be okay. I never did find out whether he survived or not.

I never thought about that medivac much after that day until many years later. I was too inexperienced to have any fear, and Bruce never gave me any reason for concern. But it was always there in the back of my mind. What an orientation flight!

When I think back at all of the unknowns that must have crossed Bruce Haskell’s mind, I consider him a hero. That was a heroic act. The crew responded magnificently (did nothing except observe). The Crew Chief exposed himself to ground fire, but did not hesitate. The crew did their job very well and efficiently. We had no idea how many VC were in that tree line, nor what their capabilities were. But between that LOH pilot who would not leave his fallen brother and Bruce Haskell and his crew, everything went off without a hitch.  They were all heroes with me being along for the ride, and hopefully learning something.  I never heard any discussion about it after that day. It was just another day in Lancer B Company. I wish that the LOH pilot would have written up Bruce and the crew for so type of recognition. He may have. But if you come back from that type of mission without any bullet holes in your aircraft, it doesn’t mean much.   It was just another day in the chronicles of B Company Lancers.

From that very first flight in B Company, I never saw a pilot hesitate to take almost any risk to save a brother. I did not know it at the time, but Bruce was “short”; he had less than 30 days left in country before his tour of duty was up. He was going home in less than four weeks!

I did get my “official orientation flight” the following day with none other than Warrant Officer Bruce Haskell. That was to be his last flight before leaving country. For reasons I won’t talk about here, Bruce was grounded and left country without flying another mission. I know that Major Grant S. Green remember Bruce for his efforts and last mission – I finally got my orientation flight.

Bruce was robbed of a full life dying so young. It is trajic, and I don’t know how he died. You see, my motivation for finally writing about this particular flight is that I hope that those who read it will never forget Bruce Haskell, the soft spoken guy with the big heart.

I know that many Lancers performed with great courage during combat assaults and log missions gone wrong. Most of you guys were only 21 or 22 years old. You grew up quick (so did I). I have always been very proud to have served with the Lancers – ALL OF YOU.

Postscript:

So many pilots and crew members suffered and are some still suffer from those horrible memories of combat assaults, picking up the dead, taking multiple hits, identifying their fallen brothers, rescuing other pilots and crew members. The longer you stayed the more you grew to anticipate. Those memories  grow on you sometimes for many years until you finally break. If you are fortunate, you get through life without much trouble.  I was very taken back and saddened when I read a Lancer publication in 2003, and it suddenly dawned on me that 40 Lancer pilots and/or crew members had died before they reached the age of 40. So remember Bruce and what he stood for as a Lancer Brother.

Respectfully Submitted by

1LT Bob Archer, Lancer 24
158th Aviation Battalion (AH)
101st Airborne Division
Company B Lancers
Camp Evans