Chuck Ogle By MARY JANE SKALA Hub Staff Writer KEARNEY — Chuck Ogle still fingers the helmet he wore as a pilot in Vietnam 51 years ago. That helmet saved his life. On March 9, 1968, Ogle was the pilot in the 498th U.S. Army Med- ical Corps air ambulance company in Vietnam. He was sent to pick up injured soldiers during the Tet Offensive. “At 4:30 a.m., we were maybe 70 to 80 feet off the ground, preparing to land, when the aircraft received heavy ground fire,” he said. The helicopter lost its engine and slammed into the ground. A bullet pierced the left back side of Ogle’s hel- met, grazed over his skull and lodged in the helmet’s right side. It caused a wound on top of Ogle’s scalp that required 40 stitches to close. Ogle spent two weeks in a military hos- pital. The first night he returned to duty, he was assigned to the same area where he was shot down. As his helicopter took off, “Enemy fire shot up the bottom of the aircraft. The fuel cell had multiple holes, causing rapid loss of fuel,” he said. The chopper made an emergency landing. This time, nobody was hurt. During his first 12 months in Vietnam, Ogle was the pilot of 10 aircraft that were hit by enemy fire, but he suffered injuries only in that first inci- dent. “If you worry about death, you can’t do your job. You worry about things that could have happened only after you land,” he said. Awards and more Today, Ogle keeps that bullet-punctured helmet and other keepsakes in the lower level of his Kearney home. On the wall is a framed case holding 11 military ribbons and honors, including the Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. He and his wife Lynda built the house 11 years ago after he retired from a 22-year military career (“22 years, two months and nine days”) and a 21-year post-military career. During the years, they moved 27 times. ‘Choosing’Vietnam Ogle enlisted in the military in January 1966. The military draft had just been reinstated and Ogle’s number was coming up, so rather than risk being called up and having no choice of assignment, he enlisted and signed up for the U.S. Army Aviation Program. Then 23 years old, he already had some flying time. “I loved to fly,” he said. He initially was assigned to basic training in Fort Polk, La. He then did primary helicopter training at Fort Wolters, Texas, and advanced training at Fort Rucker, Ala. In May 1967, he graduated from flight school and was commissioned a warrant officer with more air medical training followed in San Antonio. Then, he was assigned to Vietnam. He served from July 1967 to July 1968. Returning to the U.S., he went to Fort Wolters, and then to Fort Rucker, where he learned to fly a CH-47 Chinook, one of the largest, heaviest military helicop- ters. From there, he attended the maintenance officer training course and maintenance test flight course in Fort Eustis, Va. In 1971, he returned to Vietnam and flew with the Chinook company in the 147th (“Hill Climbers”) Company. He was part of a special reconnaissance unit formed by the U.S. Military Assistance Command to collect operational intelligence in remote areas of South Vietnam. As a maintenance officer and test pilot, Ogle did recoveries of downed aircraft in Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as resupply missions. In total, Ogle carried more than 2,650 patients in rescue missions in Vietnam. He was part of the Dustoff and Medivac aircraft crews that flew half a million medical missions. In total, they evacuated 900,000 people. “That doesn’t count the resupply aircraft I flew in and carried people out of Vietnam as the war ended,” he said. CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE “Once you retire, you have a duty to help your fellow veteran.” - Chuck Ogle Mary Jane Skala, Kearney Hub TOP PHOTO: OGLE’S FRAMED PLAQUE holds 11 military ribbons and honors, including the Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and two Distinguished Flying Crosses. BOTTOM PHOTO: THIS AWARD was presented to Ogle when he retired from Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines. Pratt & Whitney assigned him to manage the Delta Airlines’ V2500 engine program. This was part of his post-military career.