Hillclimber Patch History

Earlier this month several of us got together in Branson, MO during Branson's Veterans Day/Week celebration. In a conversation, Tom Payne asked me how the 147th got the unusual call sign of "Hillclimbers." After I told him, he suggested I put it in writing to you. The 147th Aviation Company went over as a unit in November 1965, and was the first Chinook company in country after the 1st Cav. We left from Fort Benning, GA, and after our ships were flown to the West Coast and our equipment shipped from the East Coast, we remained at Benning on alert for what seemed like a long period of time. There were a lot of card games, dice games and chess played to pass the time. We went over to Vietnam together on a troop ship. Other than reading, we just had our games. These games were always very competitive. I had grown up in the Ozarks of Missouri, where there was generally a "can do" attitude. That attitude was often expressed with the phrase "That is no hill for a climber." On the trip over, I frequently used that phrase, as did CWO Raleigh Harden, who was from either North or South Carolina. The phrase, got picked up by the rest of the pilots and then became our call sign.

This patch was made in the local economy and it did not turn out exactly as we wanted. The elephant is going up a hill, but it is not very steep. The first order of patches had the word "climber" misspelled. There are three objects on the lower half of the patch. On the left, the circular object is a flower, the center object is a tree, and the object on the right is a cow's skull with horns. All of those had some meaning at the time, but I have long forgotten what it was; I have a feeling it was not suitable for prime time explanation however. I wonder if there are any of the original Hillclimbers who remember?

L. Thomas Elliston P.O. Box 453 Webb City, MO 64870


First (Vietnam) Unit Patch

The misspelling of "Climber" is deliberate. The Vietnamese tailor who made the patch could not read the writting on the piece of paper he was handed and "Climben" was the result. There were, I believe, 24 patches in the first order that carry this mistake. The next order corrected the spelling and you will find versions of this patch with "Climber" spelled correctly.

November 1965 till July/Aug 1966.

First patch

First (Vietnam) Unit Patch (Corrected Spelling)

November 1965 till July/Aug 1966.
First patch with spelling corrected
171st Maintenance Detachment (AVIM)

For the first three plus years of the Hillclimbers existence they had a Maintenance Detachment that was responsible for all the repairs. This unit had a separate commander and first sergeant. They existed from the beginning of 1966 until January 1969. There are three known patches. I do not know if this was the first one, second one, or the third one. Any help would be appreciated.

Restoration artwork by Rodney Brown
171st Trans Det patch
171st Maintenance Detachment (AVIM)

This is another version of the 171st patch. This one was located above the commander's door in the hanger at Vung Tau, SVN. There is also a cloth version of this one that did make the translation too well given that it was probably done by a not too talented Vietnamese taylor. You can see the original patch in its' original location in Hillclimber Photo Album 1. Any help would be appreciated.

Restoration artwork by Rodney Brown
171st Trans Det patch second version
171st Maintenance Detachment (AVIM)

This patch, to my knowledge, was only rendered as a cloth patch. This reproduction has been cleaned up from the source patch. This version appears to be a first cousin to the one above. The reason for the Chinook distortation is probably due to the Vietnamese taylor not being familiar with the subject of the drawing he was using as his guide. This does not rule out bad source artwork on the part of the Hillclimbers. Any help would be appreciated.

Restoration artwork by Rodney Brown
171st Trans Det patch third version

Second (Vietnam) Patch

July/Aug 1966 until April 1970.

This image was originally designed as a spare tire cover the Hillclimber commander's jeep. The resident Boeing factory representative sent a picture of this image back to the factory in the US. Two hundred patches were made from the image and sent back to the unit. This image became the official unit patch and remained so for years.

Hillclimber second patch
The following entry shows up in the Unit History for 1969: "9 March, The USARV Cobra Training Team was attached on 17 March. They came with 8 AH-1 Cobras.

I had heard people talk about this but never met anybody from the unit until Richard Lovekin showed up in June of 2012. The Association encourages any other members of this Detachment to contact us. You ARE part of our history and we want to learn more.

Cobra Detachment patch
Third (Vietnam) Patch

April 1970 until March 1972.
Third Hillclimber patch first version
Third (Vietnam) Patch - Another version.

April 1970 until March 1972.
Third Hillclimber patch second version
Unofficial Patch

Around 1970.

Patch donated by Mr. John Brissette, 1969 and 1970.
Unofficial patch from around 1970 or 71
(Vietnam) Special 18th CAC Patch

April 1972 until the final American withdrawal from Vietnam. This patch was used by the 18th CAC which took operational control of eight Chinooks that the Hillclimbers left in Vietnam when they moved the main company to Hawaii. Although not "officially" the Hillclimbers this 18th CAC unit continued to use the radio call sign "Hillclimbers" until they turned the aircraft over to the Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF).
Third Hillclimber patch third version
Fourth (Hawiian) Patch

Came into play around 1975, and in use until at least 1983.
Hillclimber patch fourth version
Fifth (Hawiian) Patch

Late 1983 to mid 90s.
Hillclimber patch fifth version
This patch has been identified as representing the Hillclimber detachment that was stationed at Ft. Lewis Washington during the late eighties to the late nineties. Chinook units in those days usually had 18 aircraft assigned. Some state National Guard units had Chinook units and most did not. Since we were not involved in a protracted full time war somewhere complaints began to be made about "shortages" of equipment. The DOD answer this was to start creating "detachments" to spread the aircraft around. The 49th Delta Schooners of the California Army Guard had to give up about half of their aircraft to another state (as a detachment) to address this so called problem. That is how this 2nd Platoon of Hillclimbers wound up in the state of Washington. Hillclimber patch for state of Washington detachment
Sixth (Hawiian) Patch (One Version) Mid 90s. to approximately 2004. Hillclimber patch sixth version
Hawiian Patch (Second Version) Mid 90s. Not known how many years this patch was in use. This example is from former Hillclimber FE Sheila Valdez who was a FE from 1996 to 1998. This patch is reproduced from a cloth original. Shela Valdez patch
Sixth (Hawiian) Patch (Other Version)

Mid 90s. to approximately 2004.
B 214th patch one version

Seventh (Hawiian) Patch

This is the patch that the Hillclimbers deployed with in 2004. (Or so I'm told.)

I have never seen a colored version of this patch.

This patch and the next two may not be in the right order. If there is anybody who can verify the order of use please contact:

B Company 214th 25th CAB patch
Eighth (Iraq) Patch (Another Version)

This patch actually came before the next one. The Hillclimbers were part of the 214th when they deployed to the "War on Terror" the first time. While on that tour they were changed to the 25th Aviation. The first time the Hillclimbers came under the control of the 214th was in November of 1968 in Vietnam. The 214th was also "Uptight" then. In that day the 214th Avn Regt was called the 214th CAB (Combat Aviation Battalion). I found this patch on Brian Dutchers' Facebook page. I don't believe that he knew we were missing this one.
B Company 3 - 25th GAB ptch
Eighth (Iraq) Patch

This patch came into use sometime after one shown above. If anyone knows of any other variations please email Rodney Browon with the information.
B Company 3 - 25th GAB ptch
Ninth Patch

This patch was designed in 2008 and recalls the entire history of the unit.
Current Hillclimber patch
Ninth Patch (Camouflage) Camo version of current unit patch
This patch shows up during the 2010 Iraq deployment. The difference between this one and it predecessors is the "GSAB" that appears in the headline. It is the only difference from the ones above. It has to do with the Hillclimber command structure. 2010 patch version

I don't know that I can call this patch number "10." This is the modification that was made to the patch above sometime during their last deployment to Afghanistan. OEF stands for Operation Enduring Freedom. Well, I guess we can always hope. The two numbers, 12 and 13, obviously refer to the years of the deployment. I took this image off a video. I can't swear to the accuracy of the colors. As near as I can tell the photo I'm working from was a night time lighted image. I need an actual photograph of this image to insure that the proper image is captured for history.

What happens to this patch when the unit returns to the US will determine where it ultimately stands in Hillclimber history.

Camo version of current unit patch

This patch is from current Hillclimber Steve Snyder.

I've been told that there was a Hillclimber Detatachment in Northern Iraq the last time that they were there that worked with the Australians. I have no idea at this time what "Tarin Kowt" translates too, but in time someone will step forward with the answer.

Received this email 17 OCT 2017 - I came across your website while casually researching military insignia and saw your comment about “Tarin Kowt.”  Tarinkot or Tarin Kowt is the capital of Urozgan Province (also written "Uruzgan") in southern Afghanistan in the Tarinkot District (Source: Wikipedia).

Kind Regards,

Thank you Patrick (Rodney R. Brown)

hillclimber aussie patch

This patch is also from current Hillclimber Steve Snyder.

It appears that this is now the current, official Hillclimber patch for the forreseeable future. As a Vietnam veteran I'm very pleased to see the complete unit history reflected in this patch. I can tell all past Hillclimbers from first hand experience that the soldiers of the current unit are no different than we were forty-seven plus years ago. Remove the gray hair, wrinkles, and bad joints and we could fit into the unit as if we just left yesterday. R. Brown

Unofficial patch from around 1970 or 71

This patch was given to me by Vietnam War Veteran Zeke Ressler who recently visited the Hillclimbers within the year (2019). His son is currenly a Hillclimber pilot. I'm getting this up right now, but will follow on with a full updated picture gallery of Zeke and his son. Give me some time to get it altogether.

Patch from possible 2018 to mid 2019

As of late 2019 this is the new Hillclimber patch. It was sent to me by CPT Brendan Brye, Hillclimber 6. As soon as I talk to him I should be able to fill in some of the story about this patch and it's background.

Patch from possible 2018 to mid 2019