Brent C. O’Brien, Pilot
18th SOS, Phan Rang, Phu Cat, and Udorn, 1969-70
I was born in Melrose, Massachusetts on February 23, 1943. I attended grade school and junior high school at Shoemaker Elementary and Pickering Jr. High in Lynn, Massachusetts and then attended E.C. Glass High School in Lynchburg, Virginia before graduating from Conestoga High School in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. I majored in sociology at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA and graduated with a B.A. degree in 1964. During my senior year, I was commander of the Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps through which I was commissioned upon graduation. I completed Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Laredo AFB, Texas in October 1965 and, after Winter Survival Training, reported for training in the C-l24. I flew all over Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East at 10,000 feet with an air speed of 180 knots (Okay, that was with a tail wind.)
In 1967, I trained as a C-141A pilot at McGuire AFB, New Jersey. What a fun aircraft to fly for a large machine! We provided Med-Evac from Germany to Jordan, staging to Nam-North Pacific and Mid-Pacific, low level drops at Lakehurst, New Jersey and All Weather Landing System work.
After all the fun, Vietnam duty called in 1969 and I reported for C-119 and AC-119K gunship training.
My gunship transition memories include: gunnery practice missions to Indiana during winter – great training environment for SEA; delay after delay in deploying to Vietnam; and PACAF Survival Training – HELL00000 Jolly Green!
We arrived at Phan Rang AB, RVN in November 1969, but relocated to Phu Cat AB in January 1970. Then in March we moved again; this time to Udorn AB in Thailand. Memories include: INCOMING, Monsoon floods, Thai kick boxing at the ring behind the hotel where we lived for a time in downtown, F-4s flying cap, and “Triple A…. BREAK RIGHT!” and “Triple A …BREAK LEFT!”
My most memorable combat mission in SEA was the May 8, 1970 mission that resulted in our Stinger crew being awarded the MacKay Trophy. Our gunship was struck by AAA over northeastern Laos; we lost 14-feet of the right wing, including the aileron. The old bird hung together and the splendid teamwork of the crew bought us safely home. What a fabulous Stinger gunship crew and what a great job done by each crewmember that included: Alan D. Milacek, pilot; Brent C. O’Brien, copilot; Roger E. Clancy, navigator; James A. Russell and Ronald C. Jones, sensor operators; flight engineer Albert A. Nash; illuminator operator Adolpho Lopez, Jr.; aerial gunner Donnell H. Cofer, and crewmembers Ronald R. Wilson and Kenneth E. Firestone. I returned to the “real world” in September 1970 and separated from the Air Force at Travis AFB, CA. In the fall of 1971, I flew to Washington D.C. for the presentation of the MacKay Trophy. Because I had separated from the service, I was the only one from our Stinger crew dressed in civilian attire. The MacKay Trophy is displayed at the Smithsonian Air/Space Museum in Washington D.C.
During my service in the Air Force, I was awarded, among other decorations, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with six Oak Leaf Clusters. I currently live in Williamsburg, Virginia with my wife, Joan and son Greg and daughter Kendall. I also have a daughter from my previous marriage and two grandchildren that live in Dallas, Texas.