Pink Panthers

The Mission

The mission of the 361st Aviation Company(Escort) was to provide armed aerial escort, route and area reconnaissance, and aerial fire support to ground units in general support of the II Corps tactical area of operations. The primary mission was to provide two light fire teams in support of the combat and reconnaissance missions of Special Operations Augmentation, Command and Control Central(CCC) FOB#2, 5th Special Forces, Republic of Vietnam. Remaining missions were in support of the 4th Infantry Division and local ARVN units.

 

The 361st was permanently assigned to support FOB II throughout it's time in Vietnam. Support consisted of providing aerial fire support for FOB II personnel and the assault helicopter companies (AHC) who provided insertion and extraction of FOB personnel on their reconnaissance missions. Missions all consisted of cross-border "over the fence" operations in the Tri-border areas of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. During these missions, the "Panthers" were proud to serve with the men of the 57th AHC "Gladiators", 119th AHC "Alligators", 170th AHC "Bikinis" and the 189th AHC "Ghostriders". These men flew the slicks into hot LZ's to provide the insertion / extraction of FOB personnel during these missions. A more detailed description of FOB missions, from the perspective of Special Forces personnel, can be found at Command and Control Central which was located in Kontum.



A normal day's operations for the Pink Panthers consisted of two light fire teams (4 AH-1G Cobra gunships) assigned to the FOB mission while two others were placed on standby at Camp Holloway. The assignment of two fire teams started in May 1969 when it was decided that the UH-1C Huey gunships of the 57th Aviation Company were too slow and expended too quickly under the dangerous conditions of the FOB missions. Normal FOB operations consisted of four AH-1G Cobra Gunships, four UH-1H Huey helicopters "slicks" from the 57th Aviation Company and four Vietnamese Air Force "Kingbee" CH-34 troop carrying helicopters. These aviation resources were controlled by an Air Force OH-1 "Covey" aircraft which coordinated air and ground action. Additionally, backup support was available from Air Force A1-E "Spads" and F-4C "Phantoms" when required to provide heavy tactical air power.

The two fire teams of the 361st were divided into primary and secondary fire teams. The primary fire teams mission was to escort the UH-1H and CH-34 helicopters into the landing zones and provide aerial fire support to beleaguered FOB exploitation forces. The secondary fire team provided backup and coverage for the primary fire team and to take its place once its two aircraft had expended.

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