The following letter is excerpted from a letter I wrote to Tom Johnson (call sign "Egor"), founder of the DUSTOFF Association. For those of you in the DUSTOFF family...and for those of you that understand......
I'd every intention of responding to this note of yours a good two months ago. .....and we all know the "maximum effective range of an excuse"... I really was more than a little ecstatic that the founder of the Dustoff Association chose to drop 'me' a line.
An honor, sir.
Now for the news.
The 237th Medical Detachment (RA), Helicopter Ambulance was a FORSCOM unit at Fritzsche Army Airfield, Fort Ord, California. A medical "detachment" we maintained two "up" aircraft (an inventory of six UH-1V's) and supported the 7th Infantry Division (Light). The mainstay of our business; the arguably most exciting part, was our intimate relationship with the Emergency Medical Service's programs of the 15 counties in the Monterey, California vicinity (MAST)....
I logged 776 flight hours over the course of about 4 and a half years. There were a lot of changes; people come and go...in "Army" terms, 4 and a half years in one unit is an eternity....
I flew with the best.
We saw the best and worst of things, of people, of tragedies and the way events "domino" people.....the way people can and cannot act, react........
It was the height of my youth. The most excitement I will probably ever know. The place, the people...that time in my life. We were invincible and we manned flying machines ....we could (and did) save lives, change the world of emergency medicine....we were "above the best".
I left the 237th with orders for other "Army" duties and I've not been back. The time and circumstances were, when I was there, always a fragile thing......these things would forever fade... I was keenly aware of this....
Now I'm looking at the downhill side of a 20 year career. Staff positions....ribbons and neckties.....I miss the kerosene smell of JP4...the static sound of pointless conversations over the intercom....the child-like grip of a scared patient's hand holding tightly to mine as my pilots and "Army MEDEVAC 21516" raced my charge to an awaiting hospital crew....the pitched conversation on the MEDCOM between me, a young (scared) paramedic trying to convey my patient's needs and condition to an equally excited base station hospital; the chaos of trauma, the possibility, the dogged determination to cheat death.....
It all seemed so "matter of fact" then.....
.....that others may live.......
The 237th, the 7th ID and Fort Ord, were deactivated a half dozen years ago. The aircraft? the crews? the fourwinds I assume.....
I went back recently. The airfield, once alive with soldiers, Army-green aircraft and fevered activity is now the "Marina Municipal Airpark".
I cried at the loss.
Thanks for writing. I have overstayed my time.....I'm gonna be late for work. I "count beans" in an office building... but, if you're paying attention, you'll see on my "Class B" uniform shirt, planted high above my airborne wings and three rows of ribbons, a small badge. A shield with the eagled-crest of the United States Army. Seemingly held aloft by a larger pair of eagle's wings, the badge of an "aircraft crewman"; a "flight medic".....that, my friend, the memories, the terror, the joy....they can never "deactivate".
Thanks for letting me reminisce. (I've always despised trying to spell that word....:) )
I hope the association is still alive....I'd like to know a bit more about it.
So, write back. I'd be honored.........
A LINEAGE OF HONOR
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Revised: January 02, 2000.