Gambier native flew in two tours of Vietnam
FORT RUCKER, Alab. — Robert Monette served his country for 23 dedicated years, including two tours of action in Vietnam.
Tonight, the Gambier native will be honored for that exemplary service, as he will be inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame. The hall honors not just flying heroes, but all commissioned, warrant and non-commissioned officers and soldiers, as well as civilians who have contributed to Army aviation.
“I’m totally humbled by the fact I was selected; and totally surprised. I’m not sure in which order,” Monette said. “There are only 169 members total in the hall of fame, now 172, which is humbling in itself. Just to be selected to go in with an astronaut and a three-star general is totally overwhelming.”
It’s not the first honor Monette has received for his service, but it will be one of the biggest. A two-star general and dear friend of Monette’s will be his escort at the hall of fame ceremonies at the Gaylord Grand Ole Opry Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. Monette will be inducted along with Col. Jeffrey Williams, an astronaut, and Lt. Gen. Kevin Magnum, a three-star general.
After graduating from Mount Vernon High School in 1965, Monette attended Ohio State University for two years. Undecided on what he wanted to do, he joined the Army, enrolling in flight school. After graduation from flight school in September 1969, he arrived in Vietnam just a month later. He was assigned to a Military Intelligence unit that supported unique missions, mainly in support of Special Forces.
He returned to the United States in 1970 and was assigned as assistant executive officer to an air traffic control company at Fort Rucker. Monette volunteered to return to Vietnam once he regained flight status, arriving there in 1972.
That’s when he received his first big honor as an aviator. Monette’s crew was awarded the Silver Star after flying their Huey through a barrage of enemy fire to save an Air Force crew that had crashed.
Monette also received the Broken Wing Award after his Cobra was hit by enemy fire but he was able to fly the helicopter back and land it safely. He survived many daily missions like these and was there when the cease fire order was given.
“What a great feeling to go through all of that and be at the cease fire. Being there before, never knowing if there was an end. Stars and Stripes kept writing peace talks, then finally it happened. The very bad part was we knew the cease fire had happened, but alot of the enemy had not,” Monette said.
Following the cease fire in Vietnam, Monette remained in the Army until retiring in 1991. He remained flying attack helicopters, flying the Apaches in 1985. He became a test chief for the combat simulator for the Apache simulators.
“It’s amazing the transition that allows helicopters to become more survivable,” Monette said. “We only flew with one engine, now everything is two engines, so the survivability is a great aspect in the attack helicopters. The new onboard weapon systems and accuracy of them is pretty amazing.”
At the ceremony, Monette will be honored with a slide presentation of his career, as well as his biography. The formal affair will also see the unveiling of Monette’s portrait, which will be placed in the hall of fame at Fort Rucker.
“It’s a pretty classy event for a boy from Gambier,” Monette said. While happy for the honor, he believes he’s not the only aviator who should be honored. “I’m just one of many who should be here. My thought is anyone who flew in combat deserves a place in the hall of fame.”