Being an avionics man in Vietnam is like having a dozen wives; every time a man turns around there's trouble.
Avionics is the jet-age term for electrical-electronics combined in one trade, tailored specifically for aviation. Like many other specialty shops, without the avionics crew, planes wouldn't fly, as the 18 men in Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM)-364's shop will readily tell you. With little or no prompting, they'll also point out that: When it rains excessively, circuits corrode and short out. When it's too dry, dust clogs electronic and electrical systems, also causing failure.
At Ky Ha, home of HMM-364, it's either raining excessively or dust is swirling constantly, but Cpl. David E. Wilson (Greenville, Pa.) claims that's why avionics men are specialists. They're trained to whip nature as well as complex systems. It's the little difficulties that are hard to explain to flight crews who are left out of heli-assaults because their 'copters are electronically down.
Under ideal conditions, it may take days to track circuit trouble in order to perform a 15 minute repair job. But, when most of the investigation must be done at night, with red-lensed flashlights because of Viet Cong snipers, it just might take an hour longer.
Excuses aren't Cpl. Wilson's trademark. Repaired helicopters are. So during the six hours a day when he and other avionics NCOs are relatively free, they hold briefings to acquaint junior men with past problems and the solutions that were applied. The avionics shop can save time in the long run through the symposiums. Any time saved means helicopters flying.
Franklin A. Gulledge, Jr., Major USMC (Ret)
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