Kentucky Army National Guard aviation Soldier leaves behind rich legacy

Story by Sgt. Matthew A. Trukositz Jr., Headquarter, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade

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An aviation pioneer: An archive photo showing retired Master Sgt. Leonard Shouse being recognized by Brig. General Howard Hunt for his pioneering efforts in military aviation. (File photo)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky National Guard mourns the loss of an aviation pioneer, Leonard Harrison Shouse, who passed away at the age of 89 on Jan. 3.

Shouse, of Shelbyville, Ky., retired in 1981 as a master sergeant at the age of 60.  He was the first man in the Kentucky National Guard trained as a mechanic for helicopters.  Kentucky received its first helicopter in 1954, a “G” model Bell OH-13 Sioux light observation aircraft.  Shouse had already transitioned from being a mechanic for fixed wing aircraft to a helicopter mechanic.  He was the first to work on them and another Kentucky Guardsman, John Faulkenberry, became the first pilot, and so began the transformation from fixed-wing to nearly all rotary-wing assets of the Kentucky Army National Guard as it is today.

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Leonard Shouse powering up a Kentucky Army National Guard OH-23 helicopter as part of his maintenance duties. Shouse was the first rotary wing mechanic for the Kentucky Guard. (File photo)

As a member of the “greatest generation,” Shouse served in the Army during World War II. And if you were to ask anyone in the hangars on Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, they will tell you that he brought the same work ethic to Kentucky aviation.

“His work habits were like anyone’s from that generation,” said Ray Craig, a civilian aviation mechanic who had the opportunity to work alongside Shouse, whom he called a ‘mentor.’

“He was like a working machine,” recalls Craig. “He stayed at it. It was the way he was. He’d say something like ‘c’mon, let’s see if we can learn something today.”

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An aviation pioneer: A sergeant first class at the time of this photo, Leonard Shouse literally paved the way for today's aviation practices. Among his many accomplishments he was the first rotary wing mechanic in the Kentucky Army National Guard. (File photo)

Craig says those WWII vets built Kentucky aviation and those working now are just ‘riding the waves.’  Aircraft and technologies have changed, but the skills of those that put aircraft in the skies over the bluegrass remains based upon the foundations laid by Guardsmen such as Shouse.

“The attention to detail and the caring for the people who work and fly on our aircraft is still paramount as he had it when he was here,” said Craig.  “He was good in his heart and cared for people.”

Retired Lt. Col. Sandy Goin remembers Shouse fondly.  A veteran aviator during the Vietnam War, Goin flew with the Kentucky Army National Guard from 1973-79.

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An aviation pioneer: Leonard Shouse (center) literally paved the way for today's aviation practices. Among his many accomplishments he was the first rotary wing mechanic in the Kentucky Army National Guard. (File photo)

“I never saw Master Sgt. Shouse in a bad mood.  He was always looking to do something for you, and he always went above and beyond to get the job done,” said Goin.

Goin knew he was always in good hands when he flew an aircraft maintained by Shouse.  “I’d kid him and make him go on the test flights just in case.  But he was top notch, you couldn’t ask for a better mechanic or Soldier.”

Goin said that after retirement Shouse remained active in life.  “He liked to rebuild cars and he even became the first mayor of Simpsonville.  He was just a fantastic person.”

“Master Sgt. Shouse and his guys paved the way for our aviation mechanics today.”

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Today's aviation Soldiers carry on the professional legacy established by Master Sgt. Leonard Shouse and his generation. (Photo by Sgt. Matthew A. Trukositz Jr., Headquarter, 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade

Following his incredible military career, Shouse continued his love of being a mechanic, although his vehicle became 1965 Ford Mustangs.  He is survived by his wife of more than 71 years, Martha Cozine Shouse and two daughters.

Master Sgt. (Ret) Leonard Harrison Shouse was buried Jan. 6 in Simpsonville Cemetery.  Fittingly, his beloved ’65 Mustang was included in the procession.

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