Mountains of Laos
Organizational Information
Detachment 2, 37th Air Rescue and Recovery
This unit's mission was emergency
medical treatment to save lives, search and rescue
operations, recovery of downed air crews, and
special tactics in support of Inter-service Special
Operations. During the Vietnam war, the para-rescue
personnel were credited with over 2000 combat
6994th Security Squadron- This unit was under the
United States Air Force Security Service and their
primary mission was radio intercept. This was
accomplished utilizing EC-47 aircraft and a method of
intercept defined as Airborne Radio Direction
Finding (ARDF). The crews flew extremely dangerous
missions over Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. They
were credited with providing very accurate
intelligence  information used in over 90 percent of
the bombing missions performed by the B-52
bombers in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.
Detachment 5, 621st. Tactical Control Squadron
This highly decorated unit operated as one
of a small constellation of Tactical Air Control radar
units, and contributed to an overlapping radar
control network for Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and
Vietnam. Invert monitored a 500 nautical
mile-diameter hemisphere of airspace. They watched
everyone who ever took off, flew and landed. Invert
also participated in a the highly classified Igloo
White Program under Task Force Alpha.
Task Force Alpha- A U.S. Government entity staffed by
approximately 400 personnel. The personnel oversaw
a project called "Igloo White". Igloo White consisted of
over 20,000 electronic sensors that were dropped and
placed on the Ho Chi Minh Trail to monitor truck and
human traffic on the trail. Of course the HCM trail was
used to transport ammunition, food and other war
supplies to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese
soldiers fighting the United States in South Vietnam.
The senors were monitored by aircraft flying overhead
and the signals were broadcast to the Infiltration
Surveillance Center at NKP. In turn, aircraft were
dispatched to eliminate the trucks and supplies
flowing down the trail. Thousands of trucks were
destroyed annually and from  that standpoint the
project was a success. This was a highly classified
Mobile Launch Team (MLT) 3, Military Assistance
Command-Vietnam, Studies and Operations Group
- This group consisted of U.S. Army Green
Berets positioned at NKP to launch/recover ground
reconnaissance personnel who were on extremely
dangerous missions in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
MLT-3, also called "Heavy Hook", utilized various
resources from the 56th Special Operations Wing to
carry out their missions. Since they were entering Laos
from Thailand, instead of Vietnam, NKP was referred to
as the back door. MLT-3 personnel carried out some of
the most dangerous missions of the war and were the
best of the best in the world of Special Operations.
23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron-  Conducted close air
support missions in the Laos Panhandle (Ho Chi Minh
Trail) area. This part of Laos was referred to as "Steel
Tiger". The unit was called "Operation Cricket". They flew
low and slow in the O-1 Bird Dog (Cessna) supporting
ground troops and calling in air strikes to disrupt activity
on the Trail. The O-1 was subsequently replaced with the
faster, more maneuverable  OV-10.

1st. Special Operations Squadron (Hobos)- The hobos
flew the venerable Douglas A1 Skyraider and conducted
missions involving air cover, close air support, direct air
strike, armed reconnaissance and search and rescue.
The missions were flown in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
21st. Special Operations Squadron (Dust Devils)- The
21st. was initially tasked to support Task Force Alpha on
the Igloo White program to place sensors along the Ho
Chi Minh Trail. Later the squadron supported  
MACV-SOG  by inserting and extracting special
operations teams in Laos. They also supported the CIA
counter insurgency operations in Laos. Back home at
NKP the unit supported civic action programs, local area
reconnaissance and logistical support.
22nd. Special Operations Squadron (Zorro)- This unit was
operational from 1968 to 1970 and flew close air support
and direct air support missions in Laos in support of the
U.S. Elements  operating in Laos. The venerable A1
Skyraider was used for the missions.
602nd Special Operations Squadron (Fire Fly)- This unit
flew the same types of missions as did the 23rd Tactical
Air Support Squadron and the 22nd. Special Operations
Squadron. The three units rotated between U.S.
Elements operating in Laos. Missions consisted of close
air support, direct air strikes and search and rescue. The
A1 Douglas Skyraider was used for these missions.
606th Special Operations Squadron (Candlestick)- This
unit flew the C-123 Provider aircraft similar to the photo
on the right. The primary mission of the 606th was to fly
over the Ho Chi Minh trail at night and  identify
movement of equipment and people down the trail. After
identifying the targets, they would call for the fighters,
mark the target location(s) with illuminating flares and
then hold over the target in a tight circle (tactic adopted
in 1969) to control and direct fighters in the target area
of operation. The Candlesticks also provided similar
operations to assist friendly forces under attack by the
enemy while conducting ground operations in northern
Laos. Of course, the transport capability of the C-123 was
available for many uses. Another element of the
squadron conducted psychological operations over the
"Trail" using VSTOL aircraft to drop pamphlets. In
addition a Military Civic Action group provided
assistance to people in nearby Thailand and Laos.

Our thanks to former Candlestick pilot, Al Vivona, who
assisted in preparing these comments.
The American Forces Thailand Network (AFTN)-  AFTN
was an affiliate of the Armed Forces Radio and
Television Service (AFRTS). AFTN operated a complete
television and radio station at NKP. They provided radio
programs 24 hours a day and television to bring
hometown sights and sounds to the
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