Colonel Robert "Bob" Mitchell
Bob served in the 281st as a bandit aviator (Bandit 24) from May of 1969 to May of 1970. As a young Warrant Officer Bob was an exceptional pilot and a strong leader.
He was highly respected by his superiors, his peers and his subordinates.
Early in his tour he was recognized as an individual who could be counted on to get the job done and was often called on to function as a flight leader on difficult missions.
Following his outstanding tour of duty as a combat aviator with the 281st AHC, the US Army’s first special operations helicopter company, Bob returned to Fort Rucker, Alabama
where he taught tactics to new aviators preparing for duty in Vietnam.
When Bob left active duty he continued to serve his country in the Tennessee National Guard where he commanded various units and rose to the rank of Colonel.
When the 281st AHC Association was first organized Bob stepped up to assist in every phase of its development and growth, and served as the association’s second president.
His fellow intruders recognized his contributions by naming him the ‘Intruder of the Year” following his term as president.
Bob was active contributing member and leader of the organization until his untimely passing.
One member stated it best when he wrote. “With the loss of Bob Mitchell, a large chunk of heart has also been lost by the Association”.
"Bob Mitchell, 67, died Friday, December 11, 2015.
He was born April 25, 1948 in Jackson, TN, the son of Robert Samuel Mitchell and the late Marie James Mitchell. Bob graduated from Southside High School and earned a B.A. in History.
He was former owner of Mitchell’s Body Shop, retiring in 2010. Prior to joining Mitchell’s Body Shop, he was associated with Truex Chevrolet.
He served on the Madison County Commission and the McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport Authority.
He retired from the Tennessee Army National Guard with the rank of Colonel and served during the Vietnam War as a pilot in the 281st Assault Helicopter Company,
the first Special Operations Helicopter Company in the United States Army.
Bob is survived by three daughters, Melissa Mitchell Spence and husband Andy of Jackson, TN, Amy Mitchell Bechtol and husband Nate of Hickory, North Carolina,
Shelley Mitchell Carter and husband Barry of Beech Bluff, TN, his father, Robert Samuel Mitchell of Jackson, TN, two sisters, Judy Mitchell Lyell of Portland, TN,
Janet Mitchell Smith of Jackson, TN, and five grandchildren, Hayden Spence, Harrison Spence, William Bechtol, Anna Bechtol, and Benjamin Bechtol.
He was preceded in death by his wife Sherry in 2014 and his mother, Marie James Mitchell.
SERVICES; Funeral services will be held Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 11:00AM in the chapel of Arrington Funeral Directors with Rev. Bill Luther officiating.
Burial will follow with full military rights at Highland Memorial Gardens. The family will be receiving friends Tuesday, December 15, 2015 from 4:00PM until 6:00PM at the funeral home.
The family has requested that memorial contributions be directed to 281st Scholarship Fund, c/o Walt Pikul, P. O. Box 41035, Fayetteville, NC 28309."
My first contact with Bob Mitchell occurred on or about 21 May 1969. Warrant Officer Bob Mitchell had just come to the 281st and had managed to complete his in-country check ride.
Proof of this contact is my signature on his grade slip as shown below. I was also a “Wobbly One” serving as an assistant operations officer, at that time, in Nha Trang.
Years later he copied the back page of the grade slip and emailed it to me. I ran across Bob with the other Bandits when we were out on various FOB’s in I Corps.
Among the locations where I encountered Bob were Mai Loc in September 1969 on Operation Trojan Horse II.
The next time I saw Bob was at the dedication ceremony for the WO1 McCoig battalion headquarters building at Fort Drum. This was about 1999 or so.
Colonel Jack Mayhew and (then) Lieutenant Colonel Bob Mitchell and I participated in the dedication ceremonies. Bob was shortly thereafter promoted to Colonel by the Tennessee National Guard.
Bob e-mailed the grade slip on the right to me after we had renewed our acquaintance at Fort Drum [gradeslip is below to be large enough to read --editor]. Since that time, Bob and Sherry and my wife and I enjoyed some beautiful times together at Special Operations and 281st reunions.
We were saddened to learn of Sherry’s passing after the Branson, Missouri reunion.
Once again, we are shocked to learn of Bob’s untimely passing. We shall always remember them fondly.
On Tuesday, I drove up to Jackson, Tennessee for Bob’s funeral. I signed the registration book at the visitation and on the next line;
I wrote that the members of the 281st Assault Helicopter Company Association are here in spirit.
On Wednesday, I linked up with Marshall Hawkins, and Brian and Marilyn Paine. We sat together during the funeral service.
Hawk did a super job of remembering Bob on behalf of the 281st. At the cemetery, there were members of Bob’s Tennessee National Guard Cavalry unit. There was an 8-man honor guard at the entrance to the cemetery.
They were well turned out in their dress blues. The Pall bearers were six more cavalry troops in their blues. The rifle squad and the bugler were also in their blues.
The two men who folded the flag were a first sergeant and a staff sergeant. They did a fine job of folding the flag. The OIC was a Tennessee National Guard Colonel who then presented the flag to the daughters.
At about this time, we could hear the thunder of an approaching flight of helicopters. The fly-by was a vee of three UH-60s and the right wingman broke out over the cemetery to represent the “missing man”.
That was the point that brought tears to my eyes. The final moment was when a bagpiper started playing “Amazing Grace” as he marched slowly away.
The bagpiper was dressed like a proper Scotsman: In addition to his pipes, he wore a tam, kilt, argyle hose and a sporran. His coat was his dress blues jacket.
The family invited us to come to the church in Pinson for lunch. So we all convoyed down to Pinson.
The luncheon was very nice, and after we ate, the girls came around to thank us for attending; Bob’s sister and Sherrie’s sister were both present and also thanked us.
As we were sitting at the table five or six young men, Bob’s sons-in-law and some nephews gathered around the table where Hark, Brian, Marilyn, and I were sitting.
They seemed to want to know of our remembrances of Bob. So Hawk told them several anecdotes of Bob when he was the Platoon Leader of the Bandits.
I mentioned that Bob was flying as co-pilot with Brian on his very first Delta mission. Bob had looked at the map and pointed out that they were nearing Laos.
Brian’s reply was to the effect, “That’s right new guy, just shut up and navigate….” Or words to that effect. The young men said that they had already heard versions of that story.
-- Dennis and Helen Crowe
We lost one of the best. may the Lord comfort his family in this time of sadness. Tonight I will raise a toast in his honor with the best Scotch.
A long hand salute to our friend...
-- Dave Dosker
Oh no! What happened???? I can't believe it! Why?? What a loss! Did I miss something. Bob, Jeff & I were just emailing about Former Texas Basketball Coach Barnes going to Tennessee!
I'm in shock!
-- Ken Smith
I am amazed and saddened. Bob was a super guy.
-- Dennis Crow
Receive the news of Col Mitchell death with very deep sadness. Bob was one of the officers I enjoyed the most when I worked in operations each night along with the OD.
His unforgettable, distinctive Tennessee drawl was the first 281st voice I came in contact with after 30 years. My friend from the other side of the spectrum.
"A soldier died tonight."
What a shock and loss of a great man. He will be missed. When I spoke to him recently he was in good spirits and seemed to be fine. What happened?
-- Don Budlong
A great loss to us as an organization me personally and the world. I pray for his family.
-- Jim Fisher
A definite shock and deep loss to all Intruders. Our prayers are with his family.
Our one consolation is that Bob will now be with Sherry - the love of his life - for all eternity.
-- Ed and Ellen Hass
WOW!! Just the other day we were checking into the hotel and Bob came over to the disk with my and Cheryl's name tags and packet and welcomed us to STL.
Got to know Bob in the last few years and have talked shop with him several times (farm) a true friend!!
-- Frank Becker
Just looked at email for the first time since yesterday afternoon. am in shock, saddened, and at a loss for words. I and we all will miss him a great deal.
Rest in peace, brother.
-- Jim Baker
The passing of Bob is a real loss to each Intruder individually and as an Association.
I will miss those conversations that with Bob about life, hot rods, National Guard experiences, and good whiskey. RIP, brother!
-- Bain Black
A true officer and gentleman, I have always been proud to call him my brother. I will open a fine bottle of red tonight to remember the times with my friend MOP.
-- MOM (Jim Tolbert)
Wow. He did and meant so much to the Intruder family. May he rest in peace and the family take just a bit of comfort from the vibrations of love and respect we all send.
Slow hand salute!
-- Ron Turner, (Wolf Pack 36 in late 1970)
With the loss of Bob Mitchell, a large chunk of heart has also been lost by the Association.
-- Joe Bilitzke
Was sad to hear of Bob Mitchel's passing. LaRie and I spent some time talking with Bob at the reunion, liked him a lot and will miss his good company.
We will keep his family in our prayers.
-- Ken and LaRie Hamilton
It was around 1999 or 2000....was working with another Bob at the time, also a Vietnam Vet from way back in 62 and he brought in a Vietnam magazine(VFW??) and it had reunion announcements in the back and lo and behold...281AHC was on it!! Joined up soon afterwards. Cant remember all the details but my nephew, who lived in Mexico at the time was flying into Tenn on business, very near Mr Mitchells'( as I knew him) hometown of Jackson. Guess I found Bobs number on website and gv him a call......first person from 281st I spoke with since late 1970 while working at 10th HHC MCC. His Tenn twang, low and slow, would hv been recognizable to me amongst 100 other voices of the past and brought back memories of speaking with Bob, as OD in operations, late at night. Nephew and myself got together with Bob soon after and he gv me the tour of home and business along with a terrific meal and some great stories of long past....including some about miraculous, Mr Lesonic, who Bob had remained in touch with over the years. Miss hearing Bobs voice and gentle wisdom (even when he was wrong), especially at our reunions......
I didn’t know MOP before the first joint 281st/SOAR Reunion in Las Vegas. As I recall he was helping or leading our registration desk. MOP didn’t know me from the next fellow, but he acted like we were life long time buddies and there was some issue with my registration. He fixed it and immediately made me feel special. That’s when I knew this was a very special guy who I should reciprocate and treat with the highest respect. In the ensuing times I always felt like that lifelong friendship was kindred and strengthened as the years went on. Bob was always helping me as I advanced through the Association leadership from Junior-at-Large to President.
As VP I was the lucky (NOT) reunion job of organizing a rather complicated reunion that included inviting and shepherding the 10th Battalion as well as all the companies. Bob was very helpful every time I ran into a snag or needed help tracking down contacts. I came up with the idea of a riverboat dinner cruise. There were a lot of skeptics and nay-sayers about this event, but not Bob. Bob said he had tried to get previous reunion organizer to do this and he really wanted to support me. He & Sherry were some of the early signups for this event that turned out to be sold out and a really big hit at reunion with a great cross sections of other companies and battalion participating. Bob’s cheerleading on this event helped to make it a really big success.
The final place where Bob was a deciding factor was when I came up with the idea and proposal for the monument at the Airborne & Special Operations Museum. I had a lot of nay-sayer & skeptics on this too. Nonetheless Bob was right there telling me to go for it and to speak out loudly (even though Bob never spoke very loudly about most things), As Association Historian, he gave his full weight to this effort.
I wish I could remember something funny to say about Bob, but I’m drawing a block other than his dry humor comments when I would tell him about a problem I with an organization or individual, Bob was always be there with a supporting and under-the-breath dry humor comment. Mostly they were both funny and helpful or at worst comforting to cheer me up and encourage me to get over it and get on with it.
MOP was special. I miss him terribly. RIP
-- Kenneth Smith
When we were all in St. Louis in October, I sat with Bob for quite some time and talked with him about Sherry. He seemed to want to share their time together and remember the good times. I asked him how he met her. He told me he was standing in the registration line his Freshman year in college in Tennessee and Sherry started to talk with him. He said he was shy and didn't know how to flirt with her so walked away. He ran into her several times on campus and she finally asked him, "are you going to ever ask me out". So, she made the first move and the rest was history. He said he was glad she was more aggressive as he was truly shy around girls. I could just picture it all. It was a wonderful story and I enjoyed hearing all about it. Took him forever to tell it in his very slow Tennessee Twang--priceless. He and Sherry are both going to be missed by all of us. They were truly "good folks".
-- Karen Forcht
Intruders, it is deep sadness that I must inform you of the passing of Colonel Bob Mitchell this evening.
I need not tell you how much of his life Bob contributed to the 281st and our association.
Bob was our leader, go to guy and a dear friend to all. I personally shall miss him every day of the rest of my life. May he rest in peace.
-- Jack Mayhew
"He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start.
If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days.
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.
"Rest in Peace "BOB", you were one good man"
-- from "A Soldier Died Today" by A. Lawrence Vaincourt.
Here's the complete original poem.