WO 5 Bobbie McNeal Is Heading Into The Sunset
If you ask the commander of the
Army's 11th Aviation Regiment, he'll tell you that Chief WO 5
Robert "Bobbie" McNeal is a real aviation legend.
"His entire career, he has been leading by example," Col. George
Bilafer said, in remarks at McNeal’s Nov. 5 retirement
ceremony. The ceremony was held at the Illesheim base theater in
Germany to accommodate everyone who attended. "He is the epitome of
the warrant officer corps. Bobby is an absolute legend in Army
The European edition of the venerable Stars and Stripes reports
McNeal began his military career as a door gunner in Vietnam. That
was in 1966. He attended flight school in 1969 and became one of a
very few black Army pilots. In 1970, McNeal returned to Vietnam as
an AH-1 Cobra pilot (McNeal, wearing hat, shown in Vietnam during
second tour, below). On that second tour, McNeal flew 1,756 combat
Did he run into much racism during that politically charged era?
No, McNeal told Stars And Stripes -- not much.
"When I was a crew chief, there was one guy in my unit who used
the ‘N-word’ a lot around me," McNeal told the
soldier's newspaper. "He said he didn’t want me in his
platoon. In nine months, I had gone from E-3 to E-5, and this guy
was still a specialist 4 after 13 years of service."
For his last flight, a day before
his retirement ceremony, the runway was doused by firehoses and
McNeal, upon the flight's completion, was doused with
"When you get older, your reflexes aren’t as refined,"
McNeal said. "I knew this time had to come, but I’m going to
miss flying. It’s been a great career. I've reached my dream
and made friends all over the world. I feel truly blessed."
McNeal's commander says he'll miss the veteran aviator. So will
the other pilots he's mentored as a flight instructor and senior
warrant officer through the years. "Army aviation is in good hands
because (McNeal) has taught us what right looks like," Bilafer