Hurricane Mitch Destroys Honduras!


          Fort Bragg Flippers Swing Into Action.



          The Road to Soto Cano Air Base and Disaster Relief.



             From 8 November 1998 to 8 February 1999, members of C Company - "Flippers", 159th Aviation Regiment, a subordinate unit of the 18th Aviation Brigade, 18th Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, self deployed and served the Nation by supporting the people of Central America after the awesome destruction brought on by Hurricane Mitch. C Company was the former 196th Assault Support Helicopter Company (ASHC) - "Flippers".


Major Anest (CP), CW3 Morgan (PC), SSGT Velez (FE), SPC Wrubel (CE), SPC Sill (Avionics), SPC Johnson (Electrician) - Packed up and heading south...
   With aircraft 85-24337 chock full of supplies and the support personnel aboard, the crew fired up this Chinook and headed off for the distant land of Honduras. There were many hungry, homeless people far away who desperately awaited the relief supplies that the Flippers would bring.


Flying across the Mexican Frontier, just south of the border at Brownsville.


             Although the weather was less than perfect for the 2200 mile deployment, the Flippers managed to squeeze through Mexico and Guatemala arriving in the disaster torn country of Honduras in only four days. Flippers immediately began cargo operations upon arrival. Thousands of pounds of food and clothing were delivered the very first day.



Guatemala City International Airport, looking southwest.


             A quick stop overnight in Guatemala City for food, fuel and sleep proved worthwhile. The morning brought cool air, near clear skies, and an impressive view of an semi active volcano in the distance.



             Tegucigalpa International Airport became one of the numerous hub centers for conducting Relief Operations.
Tegucigalpa International - Military Ramp, looking south.



             Several hundred tons of food and clothing was transported from "Teguc" to the many distant parts of Honduras.



The Flippers arrival into the mountainous countryside around Soto Cano Air Base, looking west.
   Transporting the relief supplies throughout Honduras was often a tricky task. Weather reporting was more often nonexistent and pilots had to make educated guesses about which routes to take.



             The standard weather brief became: Temperature, a balmy 90 degrees, Winds out of the North at 10 gusting to 15, Skies - Clear. However, it always worked out for the better and the supplies got through.



Soto Cano Air Base - Honduras (The Darkside), looking south.


             Life and living conditions at Soto Cano were good. Although not home, the air base offered comfortable living quarters, hot showers, great food and adequate working conditions. Because the daily temperature ran a steady 90 degrees, flight crews often stripped down as far as possible when not flying in an attempt to stay cool. Rattlesnakes and scorpions were a bit of a problem, so folks stayed alert and out of the grass.



Taking a break on the Darkside, looking northeast.


             Although rather rare for a Flipper helicopter, sometimes the aircraft broke. Parts were difficult to obtain, but crews made the best of every situation. Taking advantage of the downtime, maintenance personnel worked hard on the little problems while they waited the arrival of parts to fix the big problems.



85-24336 Number 2 engine N2 won't work.
   In another of those rare moments, SGT Santos, Sgt Montgomery, and SPC Sill attempt to discern why the Number 2 engine N2 system is inoperative. This system controls the speed at which the engine operates, so it is rather important that it work correctly. If they could just get the pilot's glove out of the way...



The Gathering Place, a Home away from Home...


             The Company gathering place, known as November 41, became a combination Orderly Room, Operations Center, Day room, and a general all purpose meeting place for the soldiers of Charlie Company while deployed to Honduras. The few luxuries had by all - air conditioning, a television, and a phone were contained within this building .



Now Entering Flipper Country - Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras.
   This sign marked the entrance to Flipper Country, our living quarters while working in and around Honduras. Not entirely without creature comforts, we had bugs, bug screens, bugs, electricity, bugs, close neighbors who bugged us, bugs, as well as cable television with shows about bugs.


             There was even a vast selection of insects of every kind to keep one company in the event boredom should rear it's ugly head.



SeaBees working 24 hours to build our homes...


             These two photographs (above and below) show how hard the Navy's SeaBees worked to provide the Flipper's with a home away from home. Working 24 hours a day until the facilities were finished, the Navy provided comfortable tents complete with raised wooden floor, outside lights, and a shower facility.


          Thanks Navy!


SeeBees worked hard to make it a home...



Post Exchange and shopping area.
   Although not clearly visible in this photograph due to the Palm tree coverage, Soto Cano Air Base facilities included a small Post Exchange (PX) area.


             In addition to the PX, there was Anthony's Pizza, a Souvenirs Shop, Banking and Finance, Morale and Welfare establishments, Theater, Post Office, and most of the usual areas found on short tour installations. Hmmm, not a bad place to be for a one year tour...



Toilet Training.


             Aviation Missile Command's (AMCOM) Logistic Aviation Representative (LAR) Rich Deering was invaluable during the deployment. While not checking out the inside of the toilet facilities, Rich located and obtained many valuable aircraft repair parts and technical information that allowed the Flipper's to maintain their aircraft at a high state of readiness at all times. We could not have successfully pulled off such a huge task like this self deployment without the outstanstanding assistance provided by Rich.



Shower Building.


             Since all personal hygiene facilities were outside, soldiers had to take a hike whenever they wanted to shower, shave, or go to the bathroom. However, since it seldom rained and the temperature is almost always around 90 degrees fahrenheit, it really didn't seem like too much of a bother.



The Dining Facility (DFAC).


             The Dining Facility (DFAC) at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras. This is where some people spent one third of their day. Operated by DynaCorp, this DFAC offered some of the best food to be had anywhere while deployed. Still, real Folgers was mighty hard to come by. To the right are the stairs leading up and into the Theater where fairly new, and often first run, movies were showed.



The December 1988 crash of a Boeing CH-47D Chinook - Flipper 85-24332.


             While the mission was fantastic and we did many great and wonderful things for the people of Honduras and surrounding countries, we were all reminded of the dangers of flying when, on 8 December 1998, we paused for a moment to reflect on the lives lost on previous missions to this area.



          Related Sites


          Boeing's Tandem Notes

          See the Devastation


          Transmission Troubles Continue



          The CH-47 - 40 years old and still circling the world.


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