Area man flew Army planes, choppers for decades

 2nd Lt. Bob Dickinson was in his 20s and he had just graduated from Army flight school in 1956 at Fort Rucker, Ala. Photo provided

2nd Lt. Bob Dickinson was in his 20s and he had just graduated from Army flight school in 1956 at Fort Rucker, Ala. Photo provided

Before he completed his 30-plus years in the Army, Bob Dickinson was a an artillery officer, a fixed-wing airplane pilot, a helicopter pilot, a military intelligence officer, a transportation officer and a colonel serving as an assistant commander of the New Jersey National Guard’s 50th Armored Division.

His service career began shortly after he graduated from high school in Columbus, Ohio, in 1950. Dickinson was admitted to Harvard and studied anthropology. He also took Army ROTC all four years and graduated as a second lieutenant in artillery in 1954, when he got his diploma from Harvard.

“Initially I was sent to active duty at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took the basic artillery officers course. What I really wanted to do was get into Army aviation,” the 81-year-old, now of Port Charlotte, said recently.

“The Korean War was over and I ended up in 1955 taking primary flight training in Texas. I went to Fort Rucker, Ala., for my advanced flight training,” Dickinson said. “After graduation, I stayed right at Rucker and became a flight instructor. We flew Cessna L-19 ‘Bird Dogs’ spotter planes.”

 Dickinson leaves his OH-6 "Little Bird" helicopter during a training exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y. Photo provided

Dickinson leaves his OH-6 “Little Bird” helicopter during a training exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y. Photo provided

He could fly an Army artillery spotter in the back seat of his plane. The spotter would get the coordinates of an enemy position and call them into a gun crew in the area. Moments later, the big artillery pieces would obliterate the enemy position.

After four years in the regular Army, Dickinson was discharged in August 1958, and returned to Harvard Graduate School where he got a maser’s degree in business. Recruited by Esso, the giant oil company that became Exxon, his first position with the firm was as a college recruiter in New Jersey.

“I joined the Army National Guard and spent the next six years as the executive officer of an aviation battalion. Then I became the company commander of the outfit,” he said.

“Then Esso transferred me to Florida. There I became head of business analysis for Esso Chemicals in America. I had to join the Army Reserve in West Palm. Because they had no planes, I ended up flying civilian airplanes at the federal government’s expense for 80 hours a year,” Dickinson recalled.

It was about this time the Army was getting rid of their fixed-wing aircraft. Dickinson took an eight-week course at Fort Rucker to learn to fly helicopters. He flew the HB-13, H-23, OH-6 and various Huey models.

Brazil was Dickinson’s next port of call. He went to South America for the oil company as manager of general administration for an Esso subsidiary south of the border. There were no Guard or Reserve units in Brazil, so he joined the standby reserves down there.

Dickinson sits in front of some of the models of fixed wing planes and helicopters he flew during his decades of service in Army aviation. Sun photo by Don Moore

Dickinson sits in front of some of the models of fixed wing planes and helicopters he flew during his decades of service in Army aviation. Sun photo by Don Moore

When he transferred back to Esso in New York in 1969, by then he held the rank of a major in the National Guard. He then hooked up with the Connecticut National Guard.

“They had no slots for majors, so I took a reduction in rank and became a Chief Warrant Officer-2 so I could fly helicopters in the guard,” Dickinson said. “Later we moved to New Jersey where they knew me in the guard, and I got my major’s rank back. For a while I served as assistant G-2 (Military Intelligence) for the Guard’s 50th Armored Division.

“Then I transferred to Assistant Aviation Flight Officer with the Armored Division. I became a Division Aviation Staff Officer,” he said. “In 1978, it was reorganized as an aviation battalion. We put all our assets together and I became the first commander of the 150th Aviation Battalion of the 50th Armored Division, New Jersey National Guard.

“My last assignment in the service was as commander of the 50th Armored Division Support Command. I was a full colonel when I retired,” Dickinson said. “That wrapped up four years in the regular Army and 27 years in the Guard and Reserves.”

Sharyn and Bob Dickinson are all dressed up for a recent local soiree'. Photo provided

Sharyn and Bob Dickinson are all dressed up for a recent local soiree’. Photo provided

He and his wife, Sharyn moved to Florida in 1991. For 20 years, after moving to the Port Charlotte area, Dickinson was a private financial adviser. In 2007, he fully retired.

He has three adult children: Ken, Tim and Katherine, who live around the country.


Dickinson’s File

DickinsonName: Robert M. Dickinson
D.O.B: 15 June 1932
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Currently: Port Charlotte, Fla.
Entered Service: Army ROTC 1950
Discharged: 31 Aug. 1958 in the “Regular Army” and 1985 (27 years) in the National Guard and Reserve
Rank: Colonel
Unit: 150th Aviation Battalion, 50th Armored Division


This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2013 and is republished with permission.

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