The Cobra AH-1F helicopter recently received a new coat of paint. Veteran Jim Ellison explained of the community project, “I volunteered to do this project. It just means a lot to me.”
Jim has a vested interest in this particular aircraft. While serving in the United States Army as a maintenance officer in Georgia, he was responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. “I can give you a detailed log of its history,” he says of the Snake, which is how Cobras are affectionately referred to in the military. The attack helicopter’s primary use was as a “tank buster,” but it also provided fire support for ground forces and escorted transport helicopters. The prototype for the helicopter was created at the end of the Vietnam War and took the place of the modified Huey gunship.
This attack helicopter was built in January of 1968 and was commissioned on January 9, 1969. Jim served in the Army from 1983 to 1996 and serviced the helicopter in the mid-80s. “It was one of the best ones,” he says proudly of the helicopter.
The helicopter was decommissioned on August 4, 2004. Later its pieces arrived in Kremmling to go on display in the Veteran’s Memorial Park (which is a corner of the larger Forward Motion Park in front of the West Grand High School).
With his military experience and as a former West Grand alumnus, Jim volunteered to help put the helicopter together for display. This is when he recognized his former charge.
“I was pleasantly surprised to find one of ours had made it to Kremmling,” said Ellison figuring 11 or 12 thousand were manufactured. The helicopter is still owned by the United States Army and is currently on loan. With this agreement, the helicopter must be maintained and a picture has to be sent of it to the government each year.
In 2012, the helicopter was painted while Jim was living in Alaska. However, the machine was now due again for a complete paint job. Fortunately, Jim’s wife, Sam, had knowledge on how to do a larger paint job and agreed to help her husband.
The community rallied their resources. Donations of paint and equipment from the West Grand School District, West End Rental, Dave and Karen Hammer, Mountain Mama’s Embroidery, Hot Sulphur/Parshall Fire Protection District and veteran Bill Dixon ensured the project had what it needed to be successful when paired with the volunteer labor.
Both Jim and his wife, Sam are employed by the Grand County Sheriff’s Office. Jim as a Deputy Sheriff and Sam as an Animal Care and Control Officer.
“The Sheriff’s office donated Sam’s time to the project,” said Jim of the hardship of trying to match their schedules to complete the project.
Also helping with the project were Tom Meier, a veteran of the 2nd Gulf War, and his friend Nick Schade.
“The joy of doing this just brings out the best in a community,” said Jim of everyone who donated and/or stopped to visit.
Editor’s Note – The Veteran’s Memorial Park was created with Forward Motion funding. It also has memorial bricks to honor those who have served in the armed forces. For more information about purchasing a brick, call Martha at 970-724-3217.