The 166th Aviation Brigade hosted Medal of Honor recipient retired Col. Bruce R. Crandall at its recent spring formal.
Crandall was awarded the medal for his actions in the first major conflict of the Vietnam War in the Ia Drang Valley during November 1965.
He was immortalized by the movie “We Were Soldiers,” played by actor Greg Kinnear.
He regaled the crowd of 250 soldiers and families with his stories; from longtime friend and wingman, Ed “Too Tall” Freeman, to Col. Hal Moore, to his wife, Arlene, and their experiences as part of the Engineer Corps in Libya, Venezuela, Vietnam and all places in between.
In anticipation of Crandall’s visit, the “Grey Wing” soldiers watched a screening of the movie.
Crandall also took time to speak with soldiers of Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 230th Air Cavalry Regiment, a Kiowa helicopter unit of the Tennessee National Guard going through post-mobilization training with 166th’s 1st Battalion (Training Support), 291st Aviation Regiment.
“He was awesome,” said Capt. Brendan Ballerd, troop commander. “He was like a grandfather figure with stories to share that anyone can listen to and enjoy and look up to.”
Ballerd especially appreciated having a role model for his soldiers to emulate before their upcoming deployment. “He’s an exemplary figure to all of us for what he did during his service,” he said. “It was a real morale boost.”
The common theme among those who met and heard Crandall speak was his humility and what he taught them. “Take care of your soldiers and they’ll take care of you,” Ballerd said.
Quality control noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Sgt. 1st Class Jackie Bailey agreed. “He wasn’t arrogant; he was down to earth and genuine. And what it boils down to is taking care of each other,” he said. Crandall also took the time to award the Army Aviation Association of America’s Order of St. Michael medal to two of the brigade’s warrant officers: retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Carl Fox and Chief Warrant Officer 5 James O’Gorman.
“It was such a surprise and honor to get the medal presented to me by Col. Crandall,” O’Gorman said. Crandall is now in his 80s and travels more than 200 days each year, sharing his love for the Army, helicopters and his comrades-in-arms.