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Becoming a Hawk
Source: Gary Dombroski "Hawk 21"
Seems the 101st policy was to have every soldier (regardless of rank or MOS) assigned to the division undergo a week of infantry training. Had to march to the various training areas (in new boots which caused new blisters on our feet), do PT, undergo M-16 weapons qualification and familiarization with hand grenades, grenade launchers, Light Anti-Tank Weapons (LAWs), learn how to Quick Kill: with a BB gun. The last couple of days included patrolling through a typical combat area and a night firing exercise. Not a lot of fun, but I got through it. Next day I was put on a C-123 Provider for the trip to Phu Bai. Somewhat surprised at the number of scab patches they had placed over bullet holes. At Phu Bai, I was met by a deuce and a half for the ride to the Camp Eagle Processing Center. Felt very uncomfortable riding in an open truck bed through the villages and rice paddy areas between the Phu Bai Airport and Camp Eagle. (Wished I had been issued a weapon sometime before that). Completed in-processing and found out I was assigned to D Company, 101st Aviation Battalion back in Phu Bai.
Dont remember how I got to the D Company area, but upon arrival I was met and treated very nicely. Taken to my barracks (an 8-10 man sea hut) and given a little bit of time to put my stuff away. Someone came to the barracks and suggested we go to the Officers Club for a drink and a chance to meet the other pilots. I was all for that! Well, the O Club was a small hut, somewhat dark, had a bar on one end, tables on the other. A lot of people playing cards, craps, reading, drinking, etc. Noisy, but friendly - people started introducing themselves and welcoming me to the unit. Had a couple of beers, found out we used a chit sheet and paid for the beer, soda, pizza and whatever at the end of the month. John Hauck, whom I went through Cobra School came in - he had also just been assigned to D Company. Talked with him for a bit, then noticed two of the bigger pilots had begun arguing, other pilots were beginning to take sides. Things appeared to be escalating when someone suggested the argument be settled outside with a contest. Everyone went outside and gathered in a big group. John and I were told that the Hawks tried to avoid fights by settling things with a lifting contest. As new guys, we would be the weights to be lifted; the winner would be the guy that first lifted one of us off the ground.
We were asked to sit down, fitted with some type of sling around our legs and butt and each of the two guys that had been arguing took a position behind us. Another guy got into position to determine who came off the ground first. The fighters began preparing, others started choosing who they thought would win. Some bets were placed, then the fighters were ready. Everybody came in close and the contest began. It didnt last long, on the count of three - everyone poured beer all over John and me - we had just been initiated into the Hawks. Adjourned to the bar for more drinking, singing of the Hawks bar song and the nightly movie. I sure didnt see that coming. Should have suspected something because I was about 5 foot 6 inches tall and weighed about 150 pounds, John was over 6 feet and probably weighed near 200 pounds. Yet, the contest seemed real and remained as part of the initiation tradition as long as I was in-country. Looking back on it - it was fun and I was very glad to become a HAWK. Slept very well that night.