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Looking Back: Aviation Attack Icon Retires After 38 Years

Story and photos by Lisa Eichhorn: It was truly the end of an era for Army Aviation as CW5 Robert A. “Bobby Mac” McBeal took his last flight in an AH-64D Longbow helicopter on November 4 in Illesheim, Germany. Especially when you consider his first assignment with Army Aviation was that of a crew chief and door gunner in Vietnam.

McBeal as a young WO1 in Vietnam playing cards between missions in the back of a UH-1.

McBeal’s 38-year career began in 1966. Although his first 19 months in Vietnam were spent crewing and gunning on birds, he later returned for another 19 months, but this time as an AH-1 Cobra pilot. He has 4,000 combat hours, with more than 1,700 in the Cobra during his final tour in Vietnam.

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