Army Aviator Ends 43-Year Career
(March 31, 2010)
Army Chief Warrant Officer Herbert Dargue, an Army rotary-wing aircraft pilot
since 1967, will fly his last flight with the New York Army National Guard on
March 26, 2010. Dargue, who has more than 21,000 hours of flight time in
military and civilian helicopters, is an expert at flying in New York City's
U.S. Army photo by Chief Warrant Officer Vic Figliuolo
||RONKONOMA, N.Y., March 26, 2010 – When Chief
Warrant Officer Herb Dargue joined the Army as a
helicopter pilot, the Beatles' "Penny Lane"
topped the charts, the UH-1C Huey was the
hottest “chopper” flying, and actor William
Shatner was “Star Trek's” Captain Kirk on prime
Forty-three years and 21,000 flying hours later,
Dargue today will make his last flight as a
military aviator. He's capping a career that has
included a year in Vietnam, another year in
Iraq, and service in the active Army, Army
Reserve, and New York Army National Guard.
"It's the end of an era for this flight facility
and this unit,” said Army Lt. Col. Mark Slusar,
commander of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Assault
Helicopter Battalion. "The lessons and the
experience this guy can pass on will be greatly
The unit plans to mark Dargue's last flight --
more than 5,300 hours of military flight time -- with a fire truck salute and
the traditional champagne soaking when he steps out of a UH-60 Black Hawk
helicopter for the last time.
For Herb Dargue, flying is in the blood. |
His grandfather, also named Herbert Dargue, became an Army
pilot in 1913, received the first Distinguished Flying
Cross. Two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was
flying to Hawaii to assume command of some Army units based
there when he died in a plane crash.
Dargue's father, Donald, was a B-17 bomber pilot in World
War II, was shot down, spent time as a German prisoner of
war, and then went on to serve in the Strategic Air Command.
Dargue ended up flying Army helicopters because the Air
Force wanted him to have a college degree, and back in 1967
the Army didn't care.
"I went to the recruiter's office in Patchogue,” he
recalled. “I walked in the Air Force door and said, 'I want
to fly.' They said, 'Do you have a college degree?' I was a
young punk, 19 years old. I didn't want to finish college. I
went next door to the Army, and they signed me up."
In 1968, Dargue went to Vietnam where he flew Hueys for six
months with the 3rd Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry, and then six
months with a VIP transport unit. He left active duty in
1970 and joined an Army Reserve aviation unit, flying
everything from tiny OH-23 observation helicopters to the
At the same time, he pursued a career as a civilian pilot,
flying traffic report helicopters and charters of all kinds,
before winding up in Iran in 1977, training Iranian army
That job lasted for two years until the Islamic revolution.
He and the other contractors were evacuated.
"We were in the heat of battle getting out of that place,”
He moved back to New York in 1980, went to work for Island
Helicopter Corp., and joined the New York Army National
Guard helicopter unit at MacArthur Airport here. Since then,
he has also flown for Thompson Industries and most recently
Lehmann Brothers, while continuing to fly helicopters with
the New York Army National Guard.
In 2005, he deployed to Iraq as part of the 42nd Combat
Aviation Brigade. As an aviation liaison officer, he worked
in the 42nd Infantry Division Tactical Operations Center in
Tikrit, tracking Army flights across an area of Iraq the
size of West Virginia.
With the 3-142nd deployed to Iraq in 2008 and 2009, Dargue
got an extension on his retirement date because the New York
Army National Guard needed experienced helicopter pilots at
His years of experience flying in New York City's congested
airspace have made him an invaluable asset to every pilot at
the Long Island Army Aviation Support Facility, said Slusar,
his battalion commander.
"He just gave me my New York City orientation last week,"
Slusar said. "He told me what was going to happen before the
tower would tell us."
Flying around New York is tricky, because there are so many
aircraft and so many airports, he explained. "You have to
have exact procedures. Otherwise, it creates chaos."
Army Chief Warrant Officer Vic Figliuolo, a standardization
pilot with the 3-142nd, said Dargue is a bit a of a legend
in the New York City and Long Island aviation communities.
"He is known on a first-name basis to all the [fixed base
operators] in New York City. Everybody knows Herb,"
Figliuolo said. Dargue also has been an exceptional mentor
to young pilots, he added.
"He's always been one of those guys who are extremely
reliable -- never anything short of that," he said.
In his years as an Army pilot he's seen plenty of change,
Dargue said. The UH-60 has two engines, while the UH-1 had
just one. And Huey navigation, he said, was all
dead-reckoning and looking out the window and back at the
map. Now, pilots have scrolling electronic maps that tell
them where they are.
And in combat now, helicopters always fly in pairs.
"You're never out there by yourself; you always have a
wingman,” Dargue said. “In a lot of operations in Vietnam,
you'd be out there by yourself all alone."
Leaving the Army after so many years is "bittersweet,"
Dargue said. He said he has loved military flying and the
camaraderie, but he knows it's time to leave.
"All my peers have gotten out,” Dargue said. “It has a
different atmosphere to it. The Vietnam vets, they were just
a little crazier than the generation nowadays -- a little
more fun. They're a little more business-like now. The
atmosphere is not the same."
By Eric Durr|
New York National Guard
American Forces Press Service
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