Possums & Bird Dogs: Australian Army Aviation's 161 Reconnaissance Flight in South Vietnam

By Peter Nolan | Go to book overview

1
161 Recce Flight:
Formation and deployment

Captain Paul Lipscombe was a happy man. It was a clear midwinter day in July 1965 at RAAF Base Amberley in southeast Queensland. The base was host to 16 Army Light Aircraft Squadron (16 ALA), in which Paul served as an instructor pilot on Cessna 180 fixed wing aircraft. Paul’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bill Slocombe, had just told him that he was to raise and command 161 Recce Flight on operations in South Vietnam. The Flight would be the first Australian Army Aviation unit to be deployed on active service. As Officer Commanding (OC), 1 he would hold the rank of major. He would now put into practice the flying and leadership skills acquired during eleven years of training and experience since graduating from the Army’s Officer Cadet School at Portsea, Victoria, in June 1954.

Paul was surprised at his selection as the first OC. The long association between Army Aviation’s Air Observation Post role and the Royal Australian Artillery Corps (the ‘Gunners’) meant that most Army pilots had been drawn from that Corps. The Gunners now filled the senior ranks in Army Aviation. Paul, who had been assigned to the Royal Australian Army Service Corps (RAASC) on graduation from officer training, had expected them to choose one of their own to command the Flight in Vietnam. However, his experience fitted him

-3-

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