Veterans for a strong America
Comments from Readers
Authors Biography
MWSA Review
Comments from Readers
Squadron History
HC- 1 Aircraft
HA(L)-3 Aircrew Roll of Honor
Nha Be
History of Navy Combatsar presented at Texas Tech Symposium
NAS Fallon Dedication

CDR Billings


Sir, I have just finished reading Seawolf 28 and was compelled to write to you to express my admiration and absolute awe upon turning the last page.  While I am sure that you are in no way lacking praise for the book or your famed career, I hope you will accept mine.  While feats of skill, daring, and heroism abounded, and the story of a true aviator was laced throughout, it was the lessons of leadership and character that spoke the most volume to me.  You tackled the most difficult challenges of officer leadership in a way that embodied everything an officer should be. 

However, beyond praise I must tell you why this book was personally important to me.  January 28, I was winged as aviator #30848, a new helicopter pilot headed to HSC-25 in Guam after my RAG stint at North Island.  I chose your book to be the first I read as I take my first timid steps toward the fleet and into a much larger world.  I wanted to draw as many lessons and as much strength from it as I could, and I must say each page exceeded my expectation.  I cannot hope to express the significance held within, suffice to say, thank you. 

You are a true hero and man to admire, and I do not throw that term lightly.

Admirer and fellow aviator,

John S. McCain IV

Ens,           USN




Hello Al:

The book is almost unbelievable. I don't know if I am more impressed by your airmanship and feats or valor, or your steadfast support for your troops. In either case, your belief in saying and doing the right thing certainly cost you a promotion or two. "Politically correct" never was your mantra.

It would have been an honor and a privilege to have served under your command.

Thanks for a great read.


I just got done with your book. It was great! A lot of it brought me back in time and things seemed like yesterday. I especially liked the part about the two PBR crew you rescued in the middle of a firefight. I am both amazed and in awe at your skill and determination to get those guys and lift off the boat and ultimately out of the water. With torque above 40 and loosing RPM's, I can't believe you got that bird in the air! That shouldn't have happened and I believe you only exceeded by pure determination.
Your outlook toward officers in general is also my opinion from my observances. I ran into quite a few who were way full of themselves, to the detriment of their men and the command in general. One in particular stands out in my mind. Then there was a few like yourself that were a pure pleasure to work with and be around. The kind of guys you look up to and want to be with when the shit hits the fan.
Great read and thanks for your service and being the kind of officer that should be emulated by other officers and men alike.

Best regards, your friend,

Tim Hancock RD3
Tra Cu, 1971




I have just finished reading your book "Seawolf 28" and just wanted to let you know that your book not only satisfied my helicopter interest, but also left me with a need to reflect on what really matters. Your book was for me a serious food for thought on how to handle decisions and where to put my lojalty. Some day I might do the right decision instead of a wrong one as a result of these reflections, and I want to thank you for sharing your amazing Navy career, achievements and experience!

Best regards and respect,

Jon Ole Nome

Stavanger, Norway



 A very true account of what flying helicopters was pre, post and during the Vietnam War. It gives the reader a better understanding of how a daily routine can go and how brave these pilots and crew-members were to assist colleagues or fellow soldiers who are calling for help.
Not only was has Al an officer, but a very fine example of how an officer should conduct himself and see to the needs to the men he commands. He is their caretaker and shepherd and this officer was true to these aspects. I admire him and we can only hope that in the future there can be more like this fine example and men will have the privilege to serve under such great leaders and follow them into battle. I salute him and thank him for setting such a good example for future leaders of soldiers.
This book is a very needed read.


Joe from South Africa 



Leadership tested in the fire of combat!  April 24, 2009

Al Billings takes his 20+ years of leadership experience in the Navy and uses them to write an honest, emotional work about his experiences in combat and in command. He doesn't pull punches, and he does an excellent job of relaying the leadership traits and tools that worked well for him during his career. I particularly enjoyed how he in detail relayed how he got to the root of the problem in the various units in which he served. Those techniques could be used in the military today, and even in civilian leadership roles. Billings embodies servant leadership, taking care of his troops even at great personal risk and expense, and though not as polished as some other career officers, he had the right ideas at the right time to complete the mission. Current military and civilian leaders alike would do well to take note of his no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase approach, as well as his practice of making decisions and standing by them, despite the consequences.

In addition to the important leadership lessons, the book had some fantastic sea stories to keep things light and moving, and any Navy vet will find something to relate to within its pages.

I recommend this book for any current military officers or senior enlisted, as well as civilian managers. The style described might not work all the time for everyone, but there is value in the approach presented.

R. Ballister, author, "God Does Have a Sense of Humor"

Morris and I want you to know how much we have enjoyed your book.  Your keen ability to take the reader right into whatever action or feeling you’re experiencing speaks volumes about your talent.  I could literally feel the story you were talking about.  I realized the first night I started the book that I could not keep from constantly clenching and unclenching my toes.  Morris felt the same way – our daughter who is 31 experienced the exact same thing so your reach is for these younger ones who have such an interest in this war.  She read all night the first night – could not stop herself.  Thank you for the hours and hours of work that went into this book.  Please write another – about any subject!  You have captured the (        ) audience.  We have great appreciation for some of the pain that must have come to you in this process.  You are a true gentleman and officer.


Your book is great--I have had a hard time putting it down.  I would like to call you and discuss your book if that is OK with you. I applaud you for standing your ground and your beliefs-- It would have been an HONOR & PRIVILEDGE to have flown with you-- I will let everyone know how excellent your book is.  Mike



Good morning Al-

Just finished your book last night. Outstanding reading-very, very difficult to put down once you started reading. I sometimes wonder how secure we are with all the base closures and the quality/knowledge of the people running the services and our country. It is still apparent that the ol' boys club is still in existence--has been and probably always will be. But there is always hope that people with moral conviction will rise above these type people and those will be our true leaders.

Rich P.


I don't know how to start this, except by saying "THANK YOU". You and your cover ship kept my patrol from being wiped out, Dec. 8,'68. I have wondered for 40 years who you were, and to thank you. Had you guys not shown up when you did , we would not have, I believe, made it out of the Te Vi that day.

I was the rear gunner on the lead boat and took control of the boat that towed the stricken boat away during the firefight.

 Your willingness to put your ass on the line for us, and your incredible flying skill when we dusted off our shipmates can be considered nothing less than heroic.

 Take care and again, many thanks for your dedication to duty and combat brotherhood.

               Your Shipmate;

                Al Johnson (GMG2)


Hi Al

Finished the book last night....excellent thank you !!!!! You had a very interesting career in the Navy and some of the attitudes are the same the world over in many walks of life..I did 30 years with BOAC/BA and those kind of "political" people were all over the place. Usually screwing up big time..getting promoted or leaving to screw others would see the same mistakes being made time and time again but they would never listen !

I have passed on all the details of your book to our ANA branch over here as well as the Perth Australia branch I hope you get some orders from them as your book and stories definitely deserve to be read.

Thank you very much again


Hi Al,

The book was fabulous to begin with. Few men/woman have saved as many lives as you have. So really most of us don't know the feeling, we just imagine how it could feel, if that. It means so much to the ones you saved not to mention the family members.

Almost all of us at one time or another say we shoulda, coulda, woulda etc. YOU DID IT!

You took those chances, risked it all and went back for more.

It is an honor to have had the opportunity to read your story and your experiences.

You loved what you did and because of you we all stand taller. Thank you for that journey.


I got your email address off of an email that Donnie had forwarded to me.
I just wanted to tell you that I got so wrapped up in your book that I read it in 3 days. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about all of your experiences and how you handled yourself under extreme pressure.

Best regards,

Ryan Padowicz


Hi Al,

Re: the great book; I really enjoyed it.  I and two other guys went to the North Island Helo Group a week ago Friday and spoke to about 400 guys. They told us they were a training unit, very few had been to
Iraq, most had been all over the Pacific area. We were one from the WWII in the Philippines, one from USS Pueblo, & me from the ETO. They seemed to like our stories, we had 45 minutes each; and then they took us to lunch at the golf course. I told everyone about your book; and all the tours you have done and recommended it to each of them.

I'm trying to get it back from my Grandson Jarod; he has it now.


I finished reading your book yesterday, an interesting perspective of the Navy and Seawolves.  Based on your stories, I would have been proud to ride in the left door, in the back with you.



Hi Al:


Great read!  The book brought back tons of memories for me about people and events in my 23 years.  You and I, being Navy helicopter pilots, have many similar experiences between us and that's what I liked about the book.  When I send my sons their copies and when I tell friends to buy the book, my point will be that Al Mears is not Al Billings but read the book to see what a helo pilot in a certain era went through.  So thanks for the book Al.  I'm glad you put your experiences down on paper.  Hope you live a long and rewarding life.


Best regards, Al



Great book!  Never had the flying experiences with engine failures that you had.  My wife is reading the book now.  We were married just as my reserve time ended.  I told her it would give her insight into what it was like being a Navy helo pilot.  She has been very positive about it so far.

Anyway I would like to order another book and have it sent to a friend of mine.  Could you sign it for him?  Here is the address:



I have been meaning to write you. I loved your book. IT is just wonderful. I didn't realize you were such a cowboy. I plan on giving it to my brother in law as he was a Vietnam Vet and I think he would thoroughly enjoy it. I look forward to meeting you one day and having a few drinks to get more info from you.

Thanks again for sharing the book with me. It was a great read.

Tony S.


Your book is great. It is one of the best books on leadership I have ever read.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you were asked to go on the lecture circuit. 


Al, the book was great!  I could hardly put it down.

After the first third, I thought, “Boy he thinks he can walk on water and part seas”, Then after the 2nd third, I thought, “Now I understand the passion in your life and how you no BS live it – PC or no PC (politically correct).  Then after I finished it, I wished I had had the opportunity to serve under you because I saw some of me in you when I was a commander.  I lost some ground in my “career” because I picked my men over “the system” several times.  We would have made a good team.

Larry R.


Great book!  I gave it to my son-in-law and he would like to meet you.  He has already passed it on to a friend.



I just wanted to tell you that I thought the book was great.  If I had read a book like yours I would have signed up for the military during Vietnam.  Keep up the good work.



I have a son who flies MH 53s out of Corpus Christi.

Mike Prince mentioned to me you had written a book about your Navy experiences, and I bought the book to read.  Well done, I hope the book accomplishes what you wanted it to accomplish.  I will send it to my son, as he has already verbalized much of what you wrote.

I was a 90 day wonder out of OCS at Newport then, and was stationed in the Arabian Gulf, communications officer for COMMIDEASTFOR when you were in the southeast Asia theatre.

Hope everything is going well for you.

Thank you and regards


Dear Al,

    I finished your book about a week ago.  I found it difficult to put down and went through a couple of days of sleep deprivation.  Cheryl, my fiancée, is interested in reading it and has some editing experience so I'll be interested in her opinion especially since she doesn't know you and would view it from a fresh perspective.  I'm not sure if you plan to pursue any serious promotional efforts but I feel it is a story that would be of significant value to prospective leaders if presented properly. I'm not sure if the general military leadership style has evolved in the intervening years but my guess is that certain things don't change much, but not having any current references I could be mistaken.

    Again, I really enjoyed reading your book and would like to discuss it more with you at some time. I hope you consider further promotion; after all, you are approaching retirement and may be able to devote more time to it.


Mr. Billings,

I heard about your book from some of the associates and just wanted to thank you for writing it.  My son is 17 years old and just signed up for the National Guard so I bought your book off the internet.  He has told a number of the new recruits in his company and they have asked for copies from their parents when they graduate. He really enjoyed your book and wants to know when the next one is coming out.


Thanks again,



I just wanted to let you know I think you book is great.  I am almost finished but my husband and I keep fighting over the book to see who can finish it first.



Great story, I’ve told everyone in my office to buy a copy because they can’t borrow my copy.  When is your next book coming out?

Regards, Tom


You introduced me to a former employee who was a Navy helicopter pilot.
I gave his book to my son who enjoyed it very much.

My son would like to offer this man a speaking engagement before active
duty helicopter pilots, which I assume he might want to consider to help
sell the present and possibly future books.  I wonder if you can tell me
how I can find this person's contact information. 



I have not had a book like this that I had difficulty putting down in years.  In addition to everything else, you are quite the writer.  I think this should be required reading by all medical students and psychiatry residents.  I plan to purchase a few and assign it as reading for anyone I supervise.  I have to keep the one you sent me to myself as it means so much to me.  Hope things are going ok for you.  Didn't you tell me you are in the process of a second book, and if so, will that be a continuation or on a different topic.  I can think of several people involved in the treatment and assessment of veterans and a few politicians I may send a copy.  I also plan to make it one of my primary gifts throughout the year for special occasions, because I think it is a great read in addition to the insight into the realities of war and the effect on the people involved.  




“Seawolf 28” arrived last Tuesday.  Thank you so much for both your kind inscription and your personal note – I was and am deeply touched by them.  You are most kind.

  I started your journey the next day.  WOW!!!  One hell of a ride, Sir !!!  I am awe!!!  There is no doubt in this “old”  (I think we are the same age – 63?) SSgt’s “military mind” that you were a very rare and special officer. 

Your journey is awesome and inspiring!  When I finished the book, I was just kind of numb.  Yeah, you sure did do it your way, Sir.  Thank God you did!!!  I use the word “is” because I have the strong feeling that your journey isn’t over yet.  Your sense love of duty, honor, and country are that of legends!

 I did go to and read everything pertaining to “Seawolf 28”  and your life since discharge is also nothing but tremendous personal and professional accomplishments!!!  Gee, no surprise there!!!

 I completely agree with every word that Bill McDonald wrote in his MWSA review.  Very succinct and my very thoughts!    He said it much better than I ever could (guess that’s why he’s president of MWSA!).

 I’ve again read Author’s Views and you have hit the nail on the head on each point!  I have printed them out and am mailing them in the morning to my son who lives in Goose Creek.  He’s an IT guy at MUSC in Charleston.  His father-in-law was in subs and lives in Charleston. says that you are working on another book.  True ?  If so, please let me know all the particulars.  Obviously, I want to get in line to get a copy from you.

Speaking of my son, I’m sending you a check (in the morning mail) for another copy of “Seawoulf 28” and ask that you autograph it and send it to him:

 Tony Eisenhart



Al, Books arrived yesterday's mail.  Read mine before taps.  Great read and great career.  Would have loved to have served under you.  You are my kind of people.  I flew with and served under some real assholes during my 20 years.  Made the good ones stand out even more.

I thank you for the great service to our nation.  I also thank you for a great job during your time in one of my favorite outfits.  I still pet the HUP every time I get to Pensacola.

Highest regards, Mike Taylor


Aloha Al,

Your book arrived Tuesday afternoon. I couldn't put it down, and finished it

this AM. Wow! Besides being enlisted, it almost felt like what I had

experienced during my 22 years. I too could write a book about

those years, but you have said it for me. I applaud your service, and thank

you for your outstanding contributions to our Navy.

Warm Aloha's,John



Al - 

Thanks for such a prompt response.  I've already written the check with a cover note.  Will go out in the morning mail.

FYI - I had found out about your book on , then checked it out on Amazon (WOW, great reviews!), then checked your WEB site.

Commander, from an old former SSGT and veteran of both VN (active duty) and the sandbox (reserve called up) - you've had one hell of a ride!  "You've gotta giant pair"!  I salute your service and sacrifice, Sir.  God Bless you and keep you and yours safe.

With deepest sincerity and humility -  THANK YOU, SIR!



I finished your book today. You are a remarkable guy and had an incredible career!
I truly enjoyed the read and it brought back a lot of memories. I did my Escape, Evasion & Survival course in Hawaii, When I read about your SERE experience I had the feeling I was back in that POW compound myself. And although the names were different, I encountered many of the same personalities that you did. I hadn't thought about most of them in years. But when I read your descriptions those faces reappeared.
Thanks so  much for sharing your story.



 On Face Book:

Don Anderson; I suggest the book "Seawolf 28".  One of the best books I have read.  This book gave me a whole new prospective on leadership.  I wish there were more senior leaders like "Hollywood Al". 



I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book and how refreshing it was to see a man with your accomplishments, the rank that you had achieved in the Navy and " The Balls to tell it like you see it".  That is unfortunately all to rare in our world.

   I could not have achieved in life what I have, without the education I had in life, especially my Vietnam experiance, and the bonds that were formed with those that I trained and served with.  I soon learned what life felt like by the very fact that my life depended on them and their life depended on me, and of course that includes "SeaWolf" who bailed our asses out many times. 

     I found myself feeling bad for you as I was reading the book, but you did not allow that to last, because you made sure that I knew that you needed to do what was right and they could keep the bullshit part if that is what they needed to do.

     Thank you Al for you service and Thank you for writing your book, I am proud to know that you served our country for the same reasons that I served our country.  "Because it is the Right thing to do"

Take Care and God Bless.       Guy Arrans


Hi Al

Finished the book last night....excellent thank you !!!!!  You had a very interesting career in  the Navy and some of the attitudes are the same the world over in many walks of life..I did 30 years with BOAC/BA and those kind of "political" people were all over the place. Usually screwing up big time..getting promoted or leaving to screw others would see the same mistakes being made time and time again but they would never listen !

I have passed on all the details of your book to our ANA branch over here as well as the Perth Australia branch I hope you get some orders from them as your book and stories definitely deserve to be read.

Thank you very much again


I just finished your book.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  I'm writing some of my thoughts on the book below because I connected with it so much as a current Naval officer and helo pilot.


I finally sat down to read it while on leave last week and finished it in about 3 days.  I did not know what the book would be about other than Navy gunships in Vietnam.  I believe one reason I enjoyed it so much is because I relate to it on a personal level.  There are some things that have not changed in the Navy since the time you were active duty.  The biggest thing is the one that gripes my ass more than any other: politics still play such a huge role in promotions and how people try to promote themselves to the "front office.


I only know you from reading a book and you don't know me at all.  You may not care what I have to say but I will say it anyway.  You said in the end you hoped that you didn't let any of the JO's down that believed what you did was right, and that they may have viewed you not selecting for CAPT as a failure.  And that failure might cause them to believe that path of "right" decisions was not the key to advancement.  As a current JO let me assure you that you did not let those JO's down.  When we serve under senior officers that we respect and believe make the right decisions we do not alter our career decisions based on the outcome of their career.  If anything, you did the opposite of letting them down.  You showed them that it's possible to make it to command level by making the right decisions for the mission, people, and squadron and not decisions based on personal gain.  I'm looking forward to your next book.  Thank you for your service.
Very respectfully,
LT Mike Woody (Flyboy)
United States Navy