As the new year began, it would begin a turning point of the U.S.involvement in Vietnam, and consequently, an increased level of responsibility in carrying our missions for the 57th.
As the 57th took over once again the FOB II mission, it was decided by command at Battalion and at the 5th Special Forces Group that the Gladiators would have FOB "TFN". This was done as the unit performed this unique mission with great success and minimal loss of aircraft and personnel.
It was also decided that the 361st, the Pink Panthers, also based at Pleiku, would handle gun protection for the Gladiators on FOB for the duration as well.
In January, the process of "Vietnamization" was in full gear. As more and more U.S. units were "Standing Down", the responsibilities of fighting the ground war was slowly being turned over to the ARVN'S.
Although now the 57th 's primary mission was FOB, their other duties would be to support the ARVN' S take over of fire bases, ground operations and eventually the air war.
FOB was rotated in the Gladiators every other day from first (White) to 2cnd (Yellow) platoon. When not flying FOB that day, the Gladiator platoon flew other missions in their expanded AO of the Pleiku/Kontum/Dak To area, which increasingly meant flying missions in support of ARVN units.
In Jan-Feb, intelligence obtained from the FOB missions indicated massive amounts of NVA and equipment were moving across the tri-border area into Vietnam. In response, Command began to set up approximately 8 ARVN fire bases from Dak To to the border to attempt to combat the glow.
As March began, it became evident that the ARVN effort would fail to the massive NVA assault. One by one, the fire bases were over-run and destroyed by the NVA. This climaxed on 31 Mar as Fire Base 6, located just west of Dak To, was the last to fall. In support of Fire Base 6, two slicks from the Cav "Chickenman" unit were shot down atop the compound. Units from the Gladiators and the Pink Panthers were sent to search for the crews who were E &E from the base along with ARVN troops. Forced to fly low and slow to search the area, and facing heavy thunderstorms and extremely intense enemy ground fire, the Gladiator slicks were able to locate and extract the downed crews to safety.
All through April, the AO in and around Fire Base 6 and the surrounding area were repeatedly subjected to intense "Arc Light" B-52 bombing on the NVA assault force. Intelligence recon by FOB II and other missions indicated many enemy KIA and an apparent withdrawal back across the border.
For the remainder of the year, the 57th continued FOB and its other assigned missions. As the year drew to a close, it once again became evident from the FOB recon's that the NVA advance across the border may have been hurt and slowed..but not stopped. This would become more evident with the approach of the new year, as the 57th would face a tremendous test in the face of a massive enemy offensive as one of the last U.S. combat units to fight in the Vietnam war.