The Huey was not heated well. Inside the helicopter, the temperature was 38°F at ground level and at least 10-degrees colder when they were airborne.
“Bullshit to Merry Christmas,” said Santa Claus, a.k.a. Army Staff Sergeant Alberto Flamingo. He doubted he would have any “Ho-Ho-Ho’s” left when they arrived at the Naval Hospital. His natural red nose or rhinophyma from his daily half bottle of scotch was enhanced by the cold. His reddened cheeks were also a product of his ethanol consumption. The condition was referred to as Acne Rosacea. His protuberant abdomen was just from over-deposition of pre-peritoneal fat at this point in time. In a few years it would be a belly filled with ascites fluid from cirrhosis of the liver. But not today.
“Cool it Al.” Warrant Officer Jason Fatnass sighted the Naval Hospital off to his left. The Huey was at 3,000 feet. An Army Warrant Officer was a rank between the highest enlisted Sergeant and lowest Commissioned rank of Lieutenant. The Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard all had Warrant rank. Commissioned Officers had to have a college degree. Warrants did not and many military helicopter pilots were Warrant Officers. Fatnass had received his training at Camp Pendleton in California and went straight to Vietnam in 1969. He flew mainly Hueys but had over a dozen missions in the Chinooks and Jolly Green Giants where he sometimes served as chief pilot but mainly was copilot. In the States every helicopter had a copilot. Fatnass motioned to his copilot to circle the Naval Hospital compound and establish radio contact.
“Queens Naval this is Santa Huey. Santa Huey to Queens Naval. Do you read? Over.” Constantine Pollogopoulas was a junior grade Warrant Officer. He was also a primary Huey pilot but on this Christmas his assignment was to be second officer to Fatnass. His self-appointed second job was to make sure that Sergeant Al Flamingo did not fall out of the chopper.
“Are we there yet Polly?” Flamingo screwed the cap back onto his white plastic flask of scotch whiskey and shoved it into the right side pocket of his Santa jacket.
“We’re here. Keep your seat belt buckled until we land Al.” Everyone called Pollogopoulas “Polly”.
“What about the presents?” Flamingo stared at Polly with his blood-shot eyes encased in slightly swollen eyelids. “Where are the presents?”
“They’re at the hospital so just stay seated. Tighten your safety belt Al.” Polly reached over and tugged on his strap to make sure Santa was secure. The smell of alcohol overcame the odor of helicopter diesel fumes.
The radio came to life in the Huey’s earphone system.
“Santa Huey. Santa Huey. This is Queens Naval Security Operations. We read you well. Acknowledge. Over.”
“Queens Naval, Santa Huey receiving you. Santa is ready for touchdown. Is the LZ ready?” Fatnass and Polly looked down at the large red cross on the Navy blue circle which was their Landing Zone surrounded by mounds of snow. The altimeter read 900 feet.
“LZ is ready. All vehicles in position. Proceed.” LT Potska was the acting communications officer. He signaled activation of all visual indicators.
“Here we come.” Flamingo looked down as the LZ circle was rimmed with blinking red lights. The military ambulance had its rotary red lights on and the mandatory fire engine was similarly blinking both red and white.
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