By Sgt. Travis Zielinski, 1st ACB, 1st CAV DIV, USD-CMarch 29, 2010
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - After spending their Army careers in the sky, two senior aviators made their final flight in a military aircraft March 25, before turning in the "keys" to the helicopter and moving on to different jobs.
Upon completion of their flight, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Dan Wallace, the brigade tactical operations officer, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Donald Washabaugh, from Collingswood, N.J., the brigade aviation maintenance officer, both of whom are AH-64D Apache attack helicopter pilots in 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Division-Center, were honored with a troop formation and a fire truck ready to hose the two down.
"It was really touching; I was surprised," said Wallace, a native of Fort Hood, Texas. "This is the first formation I have seen like that. Obviously, the unit put a lot into it, and it was just very touching to be remembered in that way."
In 30 years of service, Wallace has accrued 3,000 flight hours and has spent the current deployment working on the brigade's tactical operations plans, airspace and electronic warfare.
"I have had the opportunity to work with so many great people of all ranks - warrant officers, commissioned officers, NCO's (noncommissioned officers) and Soldiers on the flight line," said Wallace. "Twenty-four hours a day, in good times and bad, wartime and peace, and it has just been a great experience."
Wallace will be moving to Fort Rucker, Ala., where he will become the Army Aviation TACOPS branch manager.
Taking part in Wallace and Washabaugh's last flight, given the scope of the two warrant officers' positions, was Col. Douglas Gabram, from Cleveland, Ohio, commander of 1st ACB, who was pleased to pull onto the taxiway and see all the Soldiers formed up to honor the aviators' last flight.
"They provide leadership as two of the senior W-5s in the brigade and that is what matters most - the leadership," said Gabram. "They have been doing this many, many, many years, and I was just proud to have been a part of it.
"There are some traditions and some heritage that goes back a long way by the last flight; everybody coming out here to congratulate them along with the water trucks - it was pretty special," added Gabram.
Washabaugh felt it was a suiting close to his time spent in the air, after having worked with Aviation Missile Command, the Department of the Army, U.S. Army Forces Command and various civilian entities, to successfully manage all of the aviation maintenance for 1st ACB.
"Today meant a lot to me, being that I am going to have 25 years in, knowing the unit that I care about cares about me and how we are going to continue being a great service and a great organization," said Washabaugh.
With four deployments to Camp Taji, contributing to his total of 5,200 flight hours, Washabaugh said he is ready to leave Taji and looks forward to supporting aviation supply from the DA level.
Within only a few minutes after returning from their final flight - and after getting drenched by fellow chief warrant officers - both aviators expressed mixed feelings about no longer working in the crew station of the Apache.
"I miss it now," said Wallace. "But we have to move on to a different phase of service and do some different jobs, and I am looking forward to that - I think."