2015-09-16, Les Smith, Stray Goose

Pres. Alex Keatts rang the bell to begin our meeting at 12:10 p.m. Bill Wheeler gave the invocation, and Alex led us in the Pledge of Allegiance.  Ross Ramsey led the singing of “Amazing Grace.”   We circulated in the room and greeted one another.  There was no mystery greeter, but anyone who did not have on a Rotary pin was fined. 

We had no visiting Rotarians, but John Hernandez brought his wife Isobel to the meeting. John Pickett brought Tessa Valadez as his guest and she received the second reading as a new member.  We also had Allina from Oñate H.S. in attendance. 

Announcements: Jodie Brdecko announced that the “Toss No Mas” project will be conducted on October 17th.  President Keatts said that Bill Brogan will replace Andy Taylor on the Rotary board.  

Happy Bucks:

John Hernandez was again “mighty glad to be here.”  Jim Parks paid a happy buck because NMSU’s women’s volleyball team is off to a successful start of the season, and that the concert under the stars was wonderful.  John Pickett was happy that the football Aggies almost won the game last weekend.  Adding more money to the can, James Gerwels concurred with Jim Parks about the concert. 

The Program:  Les Smith on the “Stray Goose Project” in the Vietnam War 1966-72.

A former C-130 pilot during the Vietnam War, Les shared with us his assignments in Vietnam.  It all started with a call telling him and his cohorts that there are “four new planes coming.”  The new planes (C-130E) were adapted from their predecessors (C-130).  They would be used in upcoming missions in combat zones.  The new planes required more pilots per plane and were built for nighttime duties.  The new planes had new technologies, in particular was the radar zapping antennas and the dark colored exterior to make the planes harder to spot in the dark. 

One of the most interesting innovations was the “Fulton Recovery System” which utilizes a v-shaped fork on the nose of the aircraft.  The fork is used in tethering maneuvers to lift cargo and soldiers from the ground below, behind enemy lines.  It took six months to train the pilots and crew to use the FRS effectively.  Once trained, the crews were ready for multiple missions. Penetrating North Vietnam and rescuing fallen pilots was an important part of their work. 

The Fulton Recovery System was used in rescue efforts such as the “Son Tay Rescue.”  In essence, the rescue plane flies low (300 ft.) and snags two downed pilots who end up being lifted up and eventually pulled into the back of the C-130E.  To illustrate how this works from the view of the plane, Les showed us a movie (that he recorded personally in 1967) showing how ground personnel are lifted up, and after dangling in the air while the plane accelerates and gains altitude are finally winched into a flying C-130E.  It was quite a sight. 

During the time this wartime method of evacuation was used, eight (8) troops were lost and two planes were downed.  In spite of the losses, the Presidential Citation was awarded in 2009 to this project. 

After the Program:  The can collected $73.  Jay Jordan won the raffle.  The meeting was closed with the 4-way test.

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Guests of Rotarians



Tessa Valadez

John Pickett (club)

Isobel Hernandez

John Hernandez

Visiting Rotarians


Home Club



Student Guests



Allina Wallace








Submitted by Blaine GossBlaine Goss