CCT Historical Briefs: With 2013 being a significant historical year (60th Anniversary) in the history of combat control teams (CCT), the CCA added historical event briefs to the reunion agenda. This is also the inaugural year of inducting members into the CCT Hall of Fame (HoF). Therefore, we’ve asked the inductees to sit on a panel and answer your questions and tell their stories.
The briefings begin at 1330 on Friday (18 Oct), in the Sandestin Hilton, Emerald E Room. The first briefer is SMSgt (Ret.) Jim Donaldson who will brief Operation Eagle Pull. Operation Eagle Pull was the U.S. evacuation by air of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 12 April 1975. At the beginning of April 1975, Phnom Penh, the last remaining stronghold of the Khmer Republic, was surrounded by the Khmer Rouge and totally dependent on aerial resupply through Pochentong Airport. With a Khmer Rouge victory imminent, the United States made contingency plans for the evacuation of US nationals and “at-risk” Cambodians by helicopter to ships in the Gulf of Thailand. Operation Eagle Pull took place on the morning of 12 April 1975 and was a tactical success carried out without any loss of life. Five days later the Khmer Republic collapsed and the Khmer Rouge occupied Phnom Penh. Jim is the only living member of the 4-man CCT who participated in Eagle Pull.
Directly following Jim’s briefing, MSgt (Ret.) “JD” Burch will brief Operation Frequent Wind. Frequent Wind was the final phase in the evacuation of American civilians and "at-risk" Vietnamese from Saigon, South Vietnam, prior to the takeover of the city by the North Vietnamese Army. Operation Frequent Wind was carried out 29–30 April 1975 during the last days of the Vietnam War. More than 7,000 people were evacuated by helicopter from various points in Saigon. “JD” is, one-of-two, still living from the 4-man CCT who participated in Frequent Wind. All four were awarded the Silver Star Medal for their heroic actions. (Note: A third historical briefing was cancelled due to time constraints.)
CCT Hall of Fame Panel: The CCT HoF Panel discussion will start directly after the historical briefs at approximately 1430. The Panel will consist of Col (Ret.) John “Coach” Carney, retired CMSgts Jim Howell, Mike Lampe and Wayne Norrad. Unfortunately, CMSgt (Ret.) Alcide “Bull” Benini will not arrive in time to sit on the Panel, but he’ll be available later Friday afternoon and throughout Saturday to discuss his memoirs. “Bull” was the first NCOIC of the first CCT established in 1953. Previous to joining the Air Force, he enlisted in the Army and served in World War II. He has an outstanding 30-year military career and storied background including the survival of the Bataan Death March and POW captivity. He went on to attain the rank of Chief Master Sergeant and served in various leadership positions until his retirement in 1970.
You’ll have to attend the HoF Panel session to find out more about the other inductees. So, please join us, ask questions and listen to the history of these CCT combat veterans who spent most of their career building the CCT and Special Tactics enterprise into what it is today. Some were “First There.” Please honor them by your presence.