Tiger FACs

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Touchette
  • 120th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Doug Henneman visited the 120th Airlift Wing during the August unit training assembly family day activities to visit with old friends, catch up on current events and reminisce about the past Aug. 2, 2014.

Nowadays Henneman runs a ranch and farm operation approximately 35 miles north of Choteau, Montana, and is considering retirement; but that isn't what he came to talk about. He has stories to tell from his past, our past - Air Force and Montana Air National Guard history.

Henneman served on active duty from 1966 to 1974 during the Vietnam War as an F-4 pilot based out of Thailand flying forward air control missions into Vietnam and Laos.

Following his return from Vietnam and discharge from the active-duty Air Force, Henneman returned to his ranch in Montana.

"I came back to the ranch and farmed with my dad and uncle," Henneman said.

Henneman's love of flying fighter jets got the best of him and he eventually joined the Montana Air National Guard, serving from 1978 to 1999 as a drill-status guardsman.

"I was part-time in the unit except for a year and a half when my cohort Rex Tanberg went to Air War College," Henneman said. "Then I came in full time and was director of operations for about a year and a half."

Henneman flew both the F-106 and the F-16A before being assigned to Joint Forces Headquarters in Helena.

"They promoted me to state staff, which unfortunatley took me out of the cockpit," Henneman said.

Henneman's experiences in Vietnam as a forward air controller were recently detailed in a book written by retired Air Force Maj. Donald Bell, titled "Tiger FACs - A Dance With The Devil."

The book's liner notes read: "They were the Tiger FACs, the forward air controllers who flew fast-moving F-4E Phantoms over the deadly skies of Laos and North Vietnam in an air war that history forgot to mention. These are their stories, in their own words, of missions in AAA -filled skies with supersonic angels as their wingmen. They challenged the enemy down in the weeds, eyeball-to-eyeball; cutting the supply lines that plunged through the mountains and karst formations of Laos on their way to South Vietnam. The mission required flying sorties up to six hours long with four to six air-to-air refuelings. It demanded extraordinary teamwork and bravery, and this small group of men paid the price, suffering up to eighty percent of the combat damage of a seventy-two aircraft wing. Their stories are often irreverent and far from today's political correctness, yet they are filled with the reality of war. "The Tiger FACs" will take you back to experience the days and nights of these fighter crews at Korat Air Base in Thailand. It is a recantation of the life and times of the men who chose to fly and fight, and while you won't experience battle damage, you will feel what they lived, and know, without doubt, that you are on their wing."

The book was written to tell the story of pilots who were involved in the Vietnam War, but were forgotten by history Henneman said.

The lessons learned and tactics developed by the Tiger FACs remain relevant decades later.

"What we learned there was used in Desert Storm about half way through," Henneman said. "They called them the killer scouts."

The book's author is donating all profits from the book to charities that support military veterans, Henneman said.