Casper aviation platoon Casper Platoon Story

Caspers in the News

By Gary Braden, Casper Door Gunner

TOUR OF DUTY: Typical Day For A Casper Door Gunner

CARLISLE, OH (2005) - A typical day would go something like this... Carry M-60D aircraft machine guns to his assigned aircraft, mount the weapons on their pedestals, then assists the Crew Chief in preparation for flight.

After the Pilots arrive and pre-flight has been done, we all load up. The Door Gunner unties the Blade from the Stinger, the Pilot prepares to start the aircraft and announces “coming hot” both the CC & DG check to make sure there will be nothing in the way and shouts “CLEAR” after both have checked to make sure there is nothing in the way to prevent a start up.

The Door Gunner is responsible for the right side of the aircraft when he is sitting in his seat. His range of view is 180 degrees, from the 12 to 6 o’clock position of the ship.

A gun operator who sits next to the door with a M60 machine gun. The gun is connected to the frame of the helicopter.

During take off and while in flight both the Door Gunner and the Crew Chief, lock, load, raise their weapons and stay in the fire mode until all clear. Both the Door Gunner and the Crew Chief are always looking for other aircraft or “Birds” to alert the pilot, not to mention "Charlie" on the ground.

Often the door gunners, wearing a "monkey harness" to prevent them from falling out, would stand outside the helicopter with a foot on either the rocket pods or a landing skid, firing down and under the helicopter, often firing between the skids to protect the vulnerable belly during the break following a gun run. This being done all the while receiving severe wind buffeting by being blasted with 110 to 140 mph winds as they were often firing their weapons outside the protection of the helicopter fuselage.

A Door Gunner's ability to "walk" the fire from his 7.62-caliber M-60 door mounted machine gun to within a few yards of units in contact often meant success or failure, life or death, for U.S. and South Vietnamese forces

All missions have the same aircraft preparation. We worked with a sense of urgency, knowing that the bird had to get on station fast, that delay could bring about a minor disaster.

Once you take off, "its all Indian country". There are no friendlies.

We flew many different types of missions on a daily basis. For an example:

C&C (Command & Control)


BDE Support (G-5 /AO spraying)

Troop Insertions & Extractions

Missions could last anywhere from 1 hour to as long as 12 hours depending on how close the aircraft is to its Physical Inspection. Our Aircraft were physically inspected after every 25 hours of flight time.

Very few people realize the crew members didn't walk away at the end of the day. When the rotors came to a stop, the second part of the Crew Chief and Door Gunner's day began. Somebody had to make sure that helicopter would be ready to fly and the guns could do their job at the next call. They did that job damn well too.

After a long day you'd refuel the aircraft, come home, clean the mess, patch the holes, clean the guns and get ready to do it all over again at a moments call. We were physically tired and mentally exhausted., but we got the job done! When all the maintenance was completed, it was time to take care of themselves, find dinner, beer and a bed.


The next day came fast and the crew does it all over again.

Survival in flight, and on the ground should we have to force land, rested with the gunners. The Crew Chiefs, Door Gunners, and maintenance crews were the unmentioned heroes.

They did their job in the sky. Watching that aircraft like a mother hen. Protecting every move with the threat and power of the M-60 machine gun.

This gunner is back home. He now knows in the marrow of his bones, that he was proud of how he served, of how he had performed, of the extraordinary courage he had. He knows that, without question, he had served his country with style and grace. And he knows that if anybody didn't understand -- that it was not his problem, it was theirs.

Gary Braden was a Casper Door Gunner and served at LZ English, Bong Son 6/69 - 12/70.


This site was last updated: 2/15/15