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Need To Move Military Cargo? Call A Duck ---

January 25, 1991

AN AIRBASE IN THE PERSIAN GULF (AP) _ Need a taxi? Call a Duck. Move the mail? The Ducks will handle that, too. Express cargo? Hey, no problem.

They call themselves the Desert Ducks. They fly SH-3G Sea King helicopters for the U.S. Navy, and P.M.C. is their game - that’s packs (people), mail and cargo.

Not many military people know the Persian Gulf as well as the Ducks. They have been here flying support for U.S. ships since 1972.

It’s mostly daytime flying, and it’s unspectacular.

The F-14s, F-16s, Tornados and Jaguars are getting all the glory. But few aircraft are more appreciated than a Duck carrying ″1,000 pounds of pony,″ as the seamen call their mail, referring to the old Pony Express.

And few helicopter pilots are racking up the hours these guys are flying. The Desert Ducks are Helicopter Combat Support, Detachment 2, out of Norfolk, Va.

They have chalked up 52 percent of all the hours flown by the entire squadron, with only 14 percent of the personnel. They also have set phenomenal records for ferrying cargo and people.

The detachment’s four helicopters - Desert Duck, Stealth Duck, Dusty Duck and Wild Duck - carried 429,500 pounds of mail, 211,000 pounds of cargo and 3,436 passengers in the quarter ending Dec. 31.

They also have a secondary mission as search and rescue. ″The biggest challenge is keeping the birds going and keeping everybody happy,″ said Lt. Cmdr. Dan Nagel of Charleston, S.C., the No. 1 Duck. ″There’s an incredible amount of stuff coming through.″

The Desert Duck may be the best-known helicopter unit in the Navy.

″We’ve been here almost 20 years now, and at one time or another almost every ship has been here, so everybody knows us,″ said the commanding officer.

The detachment has clearly left its mark on many ships. ″It’s a Navy tradition that when you land on a ship, they try to zap your aircraft,″ said Lt. Greg Sauter of Columbia, Md. ″That is, they try to put one of their stickers on it to show that you have been there. You try to prevent that.″

If not, there is the revenge of the Duck.

A large sponge cut in the shape of duck’s foot has been mounted on a pole. A quick dip in some yellow paint, a smack on the deck, and everybody knows, ″The Duck stopped here.″

The famous duck prints also have been slapped on some of the bombs dropped on Iraq by allied planes, accompanied by the notation, ″Duck this, Saddam.″