Lou Hennies convinced the Army to develop a special operations helicopter capable of worldwide deployment through air-to-air refueling. Born in Manly, Iowa, in 1935, Hennies grew up in Iowa and graduated from high school in 1953. The next year, he enlisted in the Air Force to see the world. After training as an aircraft radio repairman, he served in the 440th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and worked on the North American F-86 Sabre at a base in Germany. He reenlisted and served at air bases in Nevada, Colorado, and Montana.
In 1962, Hennies enlisted in the Army and, the next year, completed Officer Candidate School (OCS) and earned his Airborne wings and Ranger tab. He became an OCS tactical officer for two years at Fort Benning, Georgia, and then served as a platoon leader in the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii before going to Vietnam in early 1966. He became a company commander during a one-year infantry tour in Southeast Asia. After assignments at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Hennies went through Officer Rotary Wing Aviator training at Hunter AAF, Georgia, and then checked-out in the Bell AH-1 Cobra. He returned to Vietnam again and joined the 1st Aviation Brigade in November 1969.
During the next two years, he held a variety of positions in the Brigade. He commanded the 61st Assault Helicopter Company in combat in 1971. He then became a student at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, where he earned an undergraduate degree in political science in 1972. He completed U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in mid-1974 and then commanded a troop in the 3rd Squadron at Fort Lewis, Washington. He then commanded a squadron in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
In June 1980, he reported for a two-year staff assignment in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. He graduated from the U.S. Army War College, and, earned master's degrees in journalism and public administration in 1983. After an assignment in Germany, he went to Fort Rucker, Alabama, and became an instructor pilot in the Sikorsky UH-60 Blackhawk. In 1985, he took command of an elite special operations unit, Task Force 160 "Nightstalkers," at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He directed development of the Army's first in-flight refueling system for the Boeing Vertol CH-47 Chinook.
After serving as Deputy Chief of Public Affairs, General Hennies retired as Commander, US Army Safety Center, in 1991. In 1995, the Governor of Alabama asked Hennies to become the state's Adjutant General. As a major general, he served until 1999. Now President of Lyman Ward Military Academy, he lives with his wife, Connie, in Camp Hill, Alabama.
In the mid-1980s, the Army's special operations forces had no helicopters capable of rapid response to terrorist and other unconventional situations. Lou Hennies changed that. As Commander of the 160th Special Operations Group, he spearheaded the development of an air refueling system for the Boeing Vertol CH-47 Chinook. His citizen-soldier team designed, fabricated, installed, and tested a prototype-refueling probe at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Their efforts gave the Army a capability to meet threats rapidly anywhere in the world!