Combat Aircrew Wings
By Dick Catone
Combat Aircrew Wing Coordinator
"Scramble the Seawolves" .... For years Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron THREE (HAL-3) Seawolf fire teams responded to the call to provide life saving fire support to out fellow comrades-in-arms.
The missions flown were truly "combat" in the purest sense. Historically, the Sea Services awarded the Combat Aircrew Insignia to enlisted personnel engaged in aerial combat. Following the Korean War, the Department of the Navy designed the Aircrewmen Wing to designated all enlisted Aircrew personnel. The U.S. Marine Corps retained the special Combat Aircrew Insignia, to recognize and distinguish those Aircrewmen engaged in combat missions, Seawolf gunners should have been similarly recognized. A decades-long effort to correct this glaring deficiency has finally been solved.
Previous requests to obtain approval for retroactive awarding the Combat Aircrew Insignia to the Seawolves have been denied. However, two years ago, the Chief of Naval Operations approved the awarding of the Marine Corps Combat Aircrew Insignia to Navy personnel. Navy Uniform Regulations have been revised to include Navy personnel "who have flown in combat while assigned to Marine Corps Units as crew members." Armed with this information, the Seawolf Association began anew efforts to recognize our gunners whose missions included direct
combat support to the Marine as well as the U.S. Army Special Forces, our "Brown Water" sailors, and South Vietnamese allies.
A major breakthrough occurred during our reunion in Washington, D.C., last summer. A fellow Seawolf, Richard A. Chaffee, revealed that he had petitioned the Bureau of Naval Personnel in 1984 to determine his eligibility to wear the Combat Aircrew Insignia. Permission was granted! This was the key to open the door for all of our gunners.
The approval set the precedent for rectifying the oversight which affected all of the combat veterans who served so heroically during their tour with the Seawolves. A full court press ensued. Discussions with fellow Seawolf RADM Kevin Delaney, USN, (Det-8), Commander, Naval Base, Jacksonville, provided the spark to "scramble" the Seawolves for yet again another mission. Instead of rockets and 7.62 ammo, the power of the pen became the weapon of choice for this all important battle. A formal request was sent to the Chief of Naval Personnel identifying the oversight and requesting the authority to retroactively award the Combat Aircrew Insignia to the brave warriors assigned to HA(L)-3.
The letter included the following:
"On behalf of those brave warriors, several of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice, I request blanket approval be granted, retroactively, to authorize the awarding of the Combat Aircrew Insignia to the Combat Aircrewmen who served HA(L)-3, the most decorated Navy squadron to serve in the Vietnam conflict."
The request was positively endorsed throughout the Navy chain of command and forwarded to the Commandant of the Marine Corps. On 3 January 1997, approval was granted for any individual meeting the requirements. The Combat Aircrew Insignia is authorized to be worn in the same manner as other breast insignia, similar to the Navy Aircrew Wings.
The challenge now involves notifying all former gunners of this long overdue recognition. We can reach our membership through the "Wolfgram", however, there are many "Lost Wolves" who will need each of you to alert them of this victory. The Seawolf Association requests you contact as many of your former ship mates as possible so we can complete this most worthwhile task. "Bravo Zulu" to all the Seawolves whose efforts resulted in accomplishing this mission.
With the approval of the wearing of Combat Aircrew Insignia for HA(L)-3 personnel, we need to locate as many of those eligible members as we can. In order to simplify this process and to ensure that no one is forgotten, please fill out and send the attached affidavit.