PONCA, Neb. (KCAU) – The Vietnam War was known for many things. One of those being the introduction of the Huey helicopter. In 1968, Russ Rasmussen made the decision to join the military out of high school.

“Because Vietnam was going on, of course already, and I didn’t really feel I would make a good infantryman, and so I didn’t want to wait for the draft,” said Army Veteran Russ Rasmussen.

Just 3 days after his 19th birthday, Rasmussen stepped foot in Vietnam for the first time.

“I was in Chu Lai, but assigned to a helicopter company as a mechanic, we were on a sometimes 6, sometimes 7 man team. And our job was periodic maintenance on the Huey,” Rasmussen said.

The Hueys would come down for maintenance after 100 hours of flight time.

“Usually our turnaround times were roughly about a week that we could turn a helicopter around with the inspections. We had 20 regular Huey’s, the troop carrying ones. And then we had ten gunship model Huey’s. So that was our biggest job, was keep the helicopters flying,” Rasmussen added.

He recalls a time where he couldn’t believe one of those Huey’s made it back to base.

“Part of it was from gunshot and part of it was from mortars landing close to the helicopter, but when it came back, it flew back, but they circled and numbered all the holes in the helicopter which amounted to about 30 holes. So, we had a lot of work to do,” Rasmussen said.

However, that wasn’t always the case.

“We had helicopters that were shot down in the field, so they would send a team out to prep the helicopter to bring it back. Shnooks would bring a helicopter back to our company and drop them off,” Rasmussen said.

He would spend the rest of his year in Vietnam working on Huey’s until it was time to go home in 1969.

“I think those veterans that served that were from the Midwest were always welcomed home. Knowing that we were, we did a good job,” Rasmussen said.