1st Army Security Agency Aviation Company
by Bill Block
from the Jan-Mar Issue of the Trading Post
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The 14th Army Aviation Company (Fixed Wing-Tactical Transport) was constituted, allotted to the Fifth Army, and activated at Fort Riley, Kansas, on 1 June 1955. After temporary duty at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, from 1 June 1956 to about 1 October1956, the Company was transferred to Fort Benning. Georgia, and assigned to the Third Army. On 15 August 1956, while at Fort Huachuca, the 14th Army Aviation Company was redesignated as the 1st Army Aviation Company (Fixed Wing-Tactical Transport). During the next several years, the Company participated in various exercises and demonstrations at US Army facilities primarily in the Southeastern states.

Between 26 May and 21 June 1962, the 1st Army Aviation Company deployed in six increments to Korat, Thailand, where it remained a relatively short period of time before being transferred on permanent change of station to South Vietnam. It closed on Vung Tau, Vietnam on 31 December 1962. After a brief tour in Vietnam, the Company returned to the United States, closing on Fort Benning, Georgia, 10 December1963. Upon arrival it was assigned to the Third Army and, on 31 January 1964, was reorganized to change its designation of (Fixed Wing-Tactical Transport) to (Fixed Wing) (Light Transport).

Effective 2 December 1988, the Company was relieved from assignment to the Third Army and assigned to the US Army Security Agency (USASA). Concurrently, it was redesignated as the 1st Army Security Agency Company (Aviation). It had an authorized strength of nine officers, 17 warrant officers, and 189 enlisted men.

Following assignment to USASA, personnel from various CONUS units were assigned to fill positions to operate a unique electronic mission. They were sent to training schools to learn procedures peculiar to the system installed in the RP-2E aircraft. The system was nicknamed CRAZY CAT initially, but was subsequently changed to CEFLIEN LION. The schools included pilot training in RP-2E Neptune aircraft conducted at the Naval Air Station, San Diego, California; maintenance training at the Naval Aviation Maintenance Training at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida; mission electronics training at the American Electronics Laboratories, Colmar, Pennsylvania; and specialist training at the USASA Training Center and School, Fort Devens, Massachusetts. The Navy Neptune RP-2E was the largest aircraft in the US Army inventory at the time. It was selected for a number of reasons, foremost being the aircraft’s sustained flight capability. This aircraft could maintain consistently an on-station time of 14 hours and at one time recorded a sustained flight in excess of 17 hours.

The Company transferred on temporary change of station to Marana Air Park, Arizona for a period of 90 days before its permanent change of station to the Republic of Vietnam. Deployment began on 23 June 1967 and was completed upon arrival at the Naval Air Facility at Cam Ranh Bay on 30 June 1967. An advance party of one officer and 10 enlisted men departed Fort Benning on 26 May 1967, arriving in Vietnam on 30 May. Upon its arrival in-country, the 1st Army Security Agency Company (Aviation) was assigned the cover designation of 1st Radio Research Company (Aviation).

After the Company became operational in Vietnam, more than 900 officers and men served this elite unit. Its high standards resulted in making it possible to accumulate more than 40,000 accident-free flying hours. Pilots assigned to fly the RP-2E were considered a privileged minority in Army Aviation. Since 1987, less than 100 officers graduated from the rigorous P-2 Navy Flight Transition School at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego, California.

The mission of the 1st Army Security Agency Company was important to both tactical and strategic consumers who expressed their appreciation for the valuable intelligence provided. The missions flown were not removed from the hazards of war, for on Easter Sunday, 14 April 1969, enemy 37mm antiaircraft gunners scored a hit on an RP-2E causing extensive damage to the aircraft.

The unit was credited with 14 campaigns in the Vietnam War and was awarded the following decorations.

Meritorious Unit Commendation
Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1967-1969

Meritorious Unit Commendation
Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1971-1972

Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm
Streamer embroidered VIETNAM 1970-1971

© Bill Block 1988/1998 all rights reserved
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