While watching gunships on television during the Vietnam War, Richard A. "Commander " Cody was fascinated with helicopters and decided to make a career flying them. When he graduated from the Military Academy in 1972, the impending peace treaty with Vietnam caused his dream of flight school to be postponed; instead, he was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii. In 1975, Cody deployed with a task force to Guam for Operation NEW LIFE, supporting 50,000 refugees after the collapse of South Vietnam. Cody departed Hawaii in 1976 for Fort Rucker, Alabama, where he began rotary wing training. Graduating in 1977, Cody went to the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea as an aviation section commander.
In one year, he flew 750 hours in UH-1H and OH-58 helicopters. He returned to the States to attend the Officer Advanced School and Aviation Maintenance Course at Fort Eustis, Virginia. After school, Cody went to the 2nd Squadron, 9th Air Cavalry, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Hunter AAF, Georgia. While there, he was a maintenance test pilot conducting operational tests of the modernized Cobra. After these tests, he directed production and flight testing of a modified OH-6 Cayuse, designed for transport in an MC-130. Following acquisition of the first 12 aircraft, he trained as part of a desert task force during the Iranian hostage crisis. When the hostages were released, Cody returned to Hunter AAF as a Cobra unit maintenance officer.
In 1981, he took command of an aviation intermediate maintenance company. After completing Command and General Staff College in 1984, he became the Executive Officer for the 229th Attack Helicopter Battalion in the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In 1985, Cody took command of B Company and led deployments to Egypt and Twenty-nine Palms, California. He became the Operations Officer of the 55th Attack Helicopter Battalion before returning to Korea as the Aide-de-Camp for the Commander of the Combined Field Army. After Korea, he returned to Fort Campbell as the Executive Officer of the 101st Aviation Brigade. In June 1989, he took command of the 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, and his unit was selected for a large scale, day and night test of the Air Defense Anti-Tank System at Fort Hunter-Liggett, California.
Upon their return, they deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of DESERT SHIELD. Returning from the Gulf, assumed the position as Director, Flight Concepts Division, for US Army Aviation Systems Command at Fort Eustis. A Master Army Aviator with over 4000 hours, Cody is rated in the UH-1H, OH-58, OH-6, AH-6, AH-1, Hughes 530 and AH-64.
At precisely 0238 hours on 17 January 1991, "Commander" Cody and his flight unleashed the first shots of DESERT STORM on Iraqi forces. Using a USAF MH-531 Pave Low for navigation reference across the featureless desert, he led his flight of AH-64s into Iraqi airspace to destroy a key early warning site. Employing Hellfire missiles, 70-mm rockets, and 30 mm cannons, the flight decimated the radar site. Moments later, coalition air forces poured through the gap Cody's flight had blown in the Iraqi air defense net. This "trial by fire " of the Apache proved it was much more than just a tank killer.