Naval Aviator's Wings, Squadron Patch and Combat Aircrew Wings
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Heavy Haulers Gathering 2017 Laughlin, Nevada - October 24, 25 & 26, 2017 ---

All Marines

After Action Report

This year's Gathering in Laughlin was another ABSOLUTE success, with a special event.

I must admit that I get a great deal of personal satisfaction from these Gatherings when there are people that re-connect after not seeing each other for twenty or thirty years. But this year's Gathering was special.

In December of 1966, HMH-463, then in Santa Ana, sent a detachment of four CH53s along with pilots and support crews to Marble Mountain. Dan Ford was one of the crew chiefs among those support troops. On a flight/mission sometime late 66 or early 67, the turbine section of an engine exploded and the shrapnel ended up in Dan's back.

Word was passed back in the states in HMH-462 that a replacement crew chief was needed. A gent named Mike McConaughey volunteered and ended up with orders to West Pac. i.e. Vietnam.

I've known of Mike McConaughey for about eight years, as he lives in Houston, 50 miles from where I used to live on the Gulf Coast. I have been trying to get him to a Gathering for those eight years. Well ..... he showed up this year. This was his first ever reunion of ANY kind. In the hallway before the Thursday night dinner he told me a story about replacing an injured crew chief whom he had never met. I immediately took him into the banquet center and introduced him to Dan Ford. They immediately became fast friends. After 50 years or more, two men who shared a bit of common history, finally got to meet. This to me epitomizes why we have these Gatherings.

Mike has assured me that he will bring his wife to the next HH Gathering, which will be in October of 2019.

This year we had 83 folks pre-register and 80 actually show up at the Gathering. That said, we had a surplus of $5400 remaining after the Gathering and it was divided equally between each of three groups, $1800 went to the Semper Fi Fund East & West. The remaining $1800 went to the Army Burn Center in San Antonio. Unfortunately, we were unable to get a color guard this year, so the color guard funds were applied to the Semper Fi Fund.

When we get confirmation of these donations, I will post and bring them to the next Gathering.

Unfortunately, since the 2015 Gathering, we have lost ten of our friends. Dale Gibson was the first, followed shortly by Buzz Busby. Then Bernie Wood lost his wife. In February of '16 we lost John "Baby Cakes" Keith, then Glenn Turley and Jim Batt. Jim McCallum, Jerry Conely and Paul Bauer. And three month's ago we lost Maj Gen Ray Franklin. I am trying to get confirmation that we also lost Bill Keller.

The winner of the mahogany 53 at the Wednesday night banquet was Sharon Nicholson. At the Thursday night banquet we had an HMX Presidential painted 53, won by Joyce Ortego. She put it up for auction and it went to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, I cannot recall a name for the high bidder.

Additionally, we have a number of people to commend for their dedication and support in making the 2017 event the success it was. Steve and Sandra Maxwell, along with Charley Chase & Errol Ortego are all to be thanked for their work in making the Hootch a success and for donating raffle items. Additionally Jack Lane is to be commended for his support in making the Gathering a success.

Another fun incident was that on Wednesday I was in the hootch wearing my Patches Polo shirt. Up walked Dave Tibbals (new guy) and said by way of introduction, "I flew Patches into Pensacola." He also said that he recently started as a docent at the Pensacola Naval Air Museum. When he got there, he asked them where his green helicopter was, they told him it was now in Fort Worth. He along with the rest of you are welcome to come to the Fort Worth Aviation Museum and see how I have fixed her up. AHHHH connections, connections, connections.

Two years ago we had folks that hadn't seen each other in 43 years. Each time we do this, we get folks to attend for the first time. We need to keep it up.

Lastly, we cannot fail to thank the folks at the Colorado Belle & Edgewater hotels for their help and support. The two banquets were well received by all.

It was my honor and privilege to host and MC this event and I was pleased to see how the attendees enjoyed themselves. My wife Jan and I also had a grand time.

Last but not least thank you for coming. Without those who attended there would not be a reunion. We had a few that had to drop out because of illness and that makes it just that much more necessary to have these. Seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

Keep an eye here as we already have a consensus to do this again in 2019.

-------- Also, check back - 2017 pics coming

Thanks Again and Semper Fidelis!

Mike Amtower

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