Nov. 3, 2006

Pilot's Career Spans 40 Years, Two Major Conflicts

By Lance Cpl. Geoffrey P. Ingersoll
I Marine Logistic Group PAO

Helicopter systems have become significantly more complex since Vietnam, said Chief Warrant Officer William J. Outlaw, a battalion tactical operations officer for the National Guard's 2nd Aviation Battalion of the 224th Regiment, attached to Marine Air Group 16, 3rd Marine Air Wing (Forward). (USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Geoffrey P. Ingersoll, I Marine Logistic Group PAO)

CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq - Despite his name, Chief Warrant Officer William J. Outlaw doesn't make a habit of defying any laws. Except for gravity.

Newton and his laws have pursued Outlaw across four decades, through the jungles of Vietnam and over the deserts of Iraq.

"I love to fly," said Outlaw, a 60-year-old battalion tactical operations officer for the Virginia National Guard's 2nd Aviation Battalion of the 224th Regiment, attached to Marine Air Group 16, 3rd Marine Air Wing (Forward).

Outlaw loves to fly so much that he has logged over 10,000 flight hours. He started in 1966 and kept right on going from Vietnam to present day Operation Iraqi Freedom. He even flies helicopters in his civilian occupation as an instructor pilot for the National Guard.

"We don't do a lot of tactical work, it's a non-tactical environment," said Outlaw about his civilian job, where he flies the Blackhawk and the Huey; both multipurpose helicopters capable of completing many different missions in the Iraq conflict.

During the Vietnam conflict, helicopter pilots flew a variety of combat missions, from troop insertions and combat assaults to medical evacuations. With a history of piloting Hueys in Vietnam, where the lifespan of a Huey door gunner under fire was only 20 seconds, it's no surprise that a man like Outlaw makes a distinction between tactical and non-tactical.

Combat-zone piloting runs in Outlaw's family, beginning with his father's service first with the Army Air Corps in World War II and then with the Air Force during Korea.

"He flew fixed wing (airplanes)," said Outlaw.

He said that it was his father's career in aviation that compelled him to enlist in the Army. And when Outlaw signed those papers, his father was there to swear him in to what would end up becoming a life-long service. Now he flies helicopter missions in a U.S. military that, like him, has gone through 40 years of change.

"Things were a little more basic (in the sixties)," said Outlaw, he paused then, as he did often, to find the right words.

"We didn't have as sophisticated a set of weaponry then as we have now," said Outlaw. One difference between the conflicts stood out the most to Outlaw.

"I was twenty-years-old then, I'm sixty now.

"(I'm retiring) as soon as I get home," said Outlaw, who will continue flying helicopters as a civilian for a few more years.

Outlaw is straightforward in everything he says. His reputation for well-placed honesty has not missed the attention of the junior service members working with him.

"If you were not accustomed to the military, you would definitely take his deliberate or gruff nature personal," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bert Stover, who also explained how Outlaw is recognized across the battalion for his 10,000 flight hours, pilot instructor status, and 40 years of service.

"When he says do something, the law has been laid," said Stover, a 30-year-old Virginia National Guard pilot in Alpha Company, 2/224th.

"(But) I never once heard him raise his voice in the cockpit," said Stover from White Stone, Va.

"He's very calm, cool, collected," said 1st Lt. Larkin G. Scott, Virginia National Guard pilot and platoon leader in Alpha Company, 2/224th.

"The few (situations which) had the potential to get hairy," said Scott about Outlaw's missions, "he did whatever had to be done and kept on going with the mission.

"He flies very conservative, however, when the situation warrants it, he can fly as aggressively as anybody needs to," said Scott, a native of Providence Forge, Va.

Both of the younger pilots described Outlaw as deliberate in the sky and easy going on the ground, unless you're in between him and his purpose.

And from what the other featured guardsmen have said, Outlaw always has a purpose.

"There's one thing I learned from him," said Scott, "always have a plan."

Outlaw's plan right now is to retire from the military and eventually from aviation, leaving behind the fight in the sky for a more easy-going nature on the ground.

"(When I retire,) I'm going to farm," said Outlaw, who already owns a livestock farm.

With his only son hoping to pilot commercial airliners, it looks like the Outlaws will no longer take to the tactical skies.

Then again, he did mention something about having five grandchildren.

 

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