Not the exact words that GySgt. Robert D. Shane used but, they will suffice.
The day had dawned bright in the South Pacific Ocean and we were steaming on the USS Princeton, otherwise known as "Sweet Pea" some time between April and June of '66. There was a UH-34 that needed to have a major maintenance check and the helicopter was positioned on the #1 flight deck spot.
Gunny Shane headed up the check crew consisting of mechanics, avionics and hydraulic personnel. We had part of a battalion aboard and the Grunts began gathering around watching the activity on the plane. Someone on the crew made mention of the audience but no one seemed to care. At some point I had finished the Avionics part of the check and asked the Gunny if I could be of use with the rest of the check. He said yes that I could help him with the throttle box. The Gunny then opened the throttle box and told me to hold my hands under it and catch the parts. I did this and as Gunny Shane removed pins from the throttle box pulleys, spacers and whatever tumbled into my hands. He then instructed me to place the parts on the door. Then Gunny Shane began reinserting the various items that made up the throttle box. When he was done I asked what he wanted me to do with the old parts. He said, "Toss them overboard." which I did as he continued, "It'll fly without them any way." The maintenance check was completed and someone noticed that the audience had disappeared. That didn't seem to strange at the time because Grunts march to a different Drum Major anyway.
We were waiting for the test pilot to show when suddenly out of the island comes our Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, Sergeant Major, Maintenance Chief, Maintenance Officer and an equal number of heavies from the Battalion. You could tell by the facial expressions these were not happy folks by any stretch of the imagination. Gunny Shane pulled us to attention and our CO began by asking, "What's this about flying aircraft without all the parts being installed on them?" The question momentarily stumped all of use until the Grunt Battalion Commanding Officer clarified the statement that his men had seen and heard parts were being thrown over board and that a statement was made that the plane would fly without them. At that point Gunny Shane started to laugh and continued to do so as he explained what had happened. The officers didn't see the humor in this at all.
When all was said and done the Battalion was brought up on deck and placed at ease while the test hops took place. That's correct, test hops plural. The test pilot, co-pilot, crew chief and the maintenance crew were aboard the first test flight. Then our CO, XO, crew chief and our SgtMaj. as well as the Battalion CO, XO and Sgt. Maj. went on another test flight to show the Grunts that we weren't flying unsafe aircraft.
Often, after this incident, those that were present would get the belly laughs when someone at some time or other would say, "Toss it, it'll fly without 'em."
May all of your flights be smooth Gunny and may your flight lines always be filled with aircraft in an UP status. Rest well my dear friend.
William V. M. "Bill" Peck, MSgt. USMC (Ret.)
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