268th Pathfinder Detachment (Abn)

Submitted by: Mike Teutschman and Jim Cox

The 268th Pathfinder Detachment was organized at Robert Gray Army Airfield, Fort Hood, Texas in February 1967 as part of the 268th Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB). The detachment commander was 1LT Charles R. Dowling and executive officer was 2LT Robert Blackshear. A detachment Sergeant from the XVIII Airborne Corps, an assistant detachment Sergeant from the 101st and eleven new paratroopers rounded out the detachment.

The detachment began functioning as a unit by conducting parachute jumps from U-6 Beavers, land navigation and patrolling exercises at Ft Hood. In March 1967, the 268th Pathfinders departed Ft. Hood, TX for Ft. Benning, GA where we attended Pathfinder School. The Detachment went through Pathfinder training as a unit for five weeks. Only one member did not attend with us as he was already a Pathfinder.  This authorized us the coveted Pathfinder Badge.  We were all Airborne qualified prior to school.

After some short leaves, the 268th Pathfinders returned to Ft. Hood. The 268th Pathfinders deployed on 3 May 1967 with the 268th CAB to the Republic of South Vietnam. On arrival in Vietnam at Cam Rahn Bay and after about two weeks of acclimation, the Pathfinders moved on to their new home at Phu Hiep Army Airfield in the Tuy Hoa area of Phu Yen province. Here we began to earn combat pay, jump pay and demolition pay as the Pathfinder school consisted of demolition training too.

After a short organizational period, the 268th CAB became operational. The Pathfinders began to support the Korean Tiger and White Horse    divisions and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. They went to the field with the Korean Infantry to control their helicopter support. Members of the 268th Pathfinders accompanied the troops of the 173rd Airborne as they hunted the Viet Cong throughout Phu Yen province, including the Tuy Hoa Valley..

In addition to their other duties, the Pathfinders flew as door gunners (earning Crewmember Badges), served as reactionary forces, and defended the battalionís area. Under the direction of 1LT Dowling, they established and maintained the minefield around the heliport. They used their expertise with explosives to blow the tops out of 55-gallon drums used for the rapid manufacture of protective structures around the buildings and aircraft. Any time the battalion required equipment and supplies from Camh Rahn Bay, the Pathfinders rode shotgun on the convoys to provide the defensive firepower to ensure delivery.

The 268th Pathfinders wore the 1st Aviation Brigade patch with a blue and white Airborne tab above it. SGT Mike Teutschman designed the detachmentís distinctive Jump Wing background. The red and yellow represent the colors of the South Vietnamese flag and the black represents the Black Hat of the pathfinder.  Shortly after our first few missions, we discarded our helmets and wore Black Hats only.

In April of 1968 the original members of the detachment began to DEROS back to the states. Thirteen of the original 268th Pathfinders came back and 2 made the ultimate sacrifice.

 

List of original members of the 268th Pathfinder Detachment:                                                       

CO - 1LT Charles R. Dowling - Died of natural causes in February 2003.

XO - 2LT Robert Blackshear - Killed at Ft. Rucker, AL in a helicopter training crash, 1968.

SSG Fred H. Taylor, Jr. - located

SGT Wayne C. Tanzer- located

SGT Michael D. Teutschman - located

SGT James H. "Jim" Cox - located!                                                                                                                

SGT Steve S. Gadowski, Jr. - Deceased of natural causes in July 2000.

SGT Ralph J. Blevins - located

SGT Jerome R. "Jerry" Lang - located!

SP4 Thomas R. Clair, Jr. - located!

SP4 Henry S. Fleckinger - located                                                                                                                     

SP4 Frederick H. Dycha - located                                                                                                                   

PFC Jerry W. Elliott - MIA, January 1968

PFC Douglas R. Noel - KIA, Aug 1967

PVT Loren J. Alexander - Died in 2000 while in Utah .

 

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