(Dick Trail/Courtesy photo)
Tyler recently returned from a year-long deployment and is now working just north of McCook. While deployed, he had read of the efforts of Ann Trail, her Adopt-A-Chaplain program, to send a never-ending stream of boxes to her/our soldiers deployed to that God forsaken area. That special flag was presented in person by Tyler, accompanied by his mom, as a grateful token of their appreciation for the support of her many helpers and a multitude of contributions from this community.
Tyler had shared a Gazette article about the community's efforts to send love filled boxes to the troops in the area and his unit decided to fly a flag in Ann's honor. And yes, Ann was assured that Tyler and his crew, then stationed at Forward Operating Base "FOB" Salerno, had indeed flown missions to and from the FOB Orgun-E destination of the packages that she sends.
In uniform, Tyler was a combat medic, now also qualified as a flight nurse, assigned to a "DUSTOFF" air rescue unit. DUSTOFF crews are truly angels of mercy, the best of the best. It is a dangerous mission, as they are called to every "Troops in Contact" battle scene, arriving most times before the gunfire has died down. Tyler's unit flew the UH-60L Blackhawk, the big unarmed helicopters with a large red cross emblazoned on a field of white painted on the nose and each side of the fuselage.
For the unscrupulous enemies that we fought in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, that large red cross made for a bulls-eye on a favorite target. DUSTOFF is synonymous for danger, and in the eyes of every fighting man, they are the most welcome sight imaginable. Only the best and the bravest are selected for that mission.
SPC Tyler Neff is an Army National Guardsman assigned to C Co. 5/159th, "Cowboy DUSTOFF" operating out of Cheyenne, Wyoming when not deployed. He lives and works in McCook, but travels to Cheyenne for training and drills. As always, there is a possibility that he will be sent on a second tour of duty in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Our nation holds a debt of gratitude to those superb young men and women willing to serve when called.
The American public became aware of the aerial medical evacuation "MEDEVAC" mission through the popular "MASH" movie and TV series. MASH depicted the Army's efforts to rapidly move wounded personal from the battle field to well- equipped field hospitals. MASH units used the venerable H-13, civilian Bell 47, helicopter to carry one or at most two patients at a time. In Vietnam, the Army adapted the UH-1 "Huey" which was faster, capable of carrying multiple patients and crewed by two pilots and one or more combat medics.
For a reason Huey DUSTOFF crews earned more combat decorations than about any other Army unit, statistics show that the loss rate of DUSTOFF aircraft was one and a half times the loss rate of all the other Army helicopters used in combat. No commander told a DUSTOFF pilot that an area was too unsafe to pick up wounded troops, night, bad weather or hostile fire, the decision was the DUSTOFF pilot's own, and the record shows that those guys were fearless. McCook's own Dr. Warren Jones was one of the hero DUSTOFF pilots of that conflict.
One might ask if the MEDEVAC mission was worth the risk involved. The Vietnam experience of deaths as a percentage of hits-shows more clearly the improvement in medical care: in World War II it was 29.3 percent; in Korea, 26.3 percent; and in Vietnam, only 19 percent. Helicopter evacuation was only one aspect of the Army's medical care in Vietnam, but without that link between the battlefield and the superbly staffed and equipped hospitals, it seems likely that the death rate would have surpassed perhaps even that in World War II. There are no statistics to show, but knowing that one will be evacuated immediately if wounded undoubtedly has a positive effect on the morale of combat personnel.
The Air Force operates its own MEDEVAC mission supplementing the Army's role. In Vietnam the crews flew CH-3s using the callsign "Jolly Green (Giant)" and later in the conflict the CH-53 "Super Jolly Green."
DUSTOFF units are located close to Army installations in the field and the Jolly's are more far ranging and usually accompanied by fighter aircraft for protection when called for rescue in locations far from friendly forces. Currently the Air Force combat rescue outfits operate the far more capable HH-60G, "Pave Hawk" aircraft recently in Iraq and in the ongoing fight in Afghanistan with the CV-22 "Osprey" assisting when feasible.
Receiving the precious flag flown in combat so far from home was truly an unexpected honor. Rest assured that it will be proudly flown to honor our American fighting men and women. Thank you Spc. Tyler Neff and all the men and women that you served with for your thoughtfulness in bringing it home to this grateful community.
Officially today is the first day of spring. Possibly Mother Nature is rushing it a bit as driving past Norris Park recently I noticed young lady sitting on the ground with her back to a tree monitoring the activities of children playing on the equipment in the background. The young mother was tastefully nursing a baby concealed beneath a blanket draped over her front. Spring the harbinger of new life -- all is well in our world.
That is the way I saw it.