By Lori Newman, Fort Sam Houston Public AffairsAugust 6, 2010
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- A crowd gathered at the Army Medical Department Museum July 29 to hear the tales of a Vietnam War DUSTOFF pilot, who also is a Medal of Honor recipient and author.
"I happened to be there when DUSTOFF was established, and I happened to be there again when it reached full fruition," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady during his presentation.
"DUSTOFF" was the call sign given to the first aero medical helicopter evacuation unit in Vietnam, the 57th Medical Detachment.
The call sign epitomized the 57th's medical evacuation missions. Since the countryside was dry and dusty, helicopter pickups often blew dust and dirt over the men on the ground, according the DUSTOFF Association website (http://www.dustoff.org).
Brady regaled the audience with stories of his missions in Vietnam and the history of aero medical evacuation.
"I get a kick out of [fighter] pilots. You don't really fly a fixed wing, you sit there and ride," Brady said.
"You really fly a helicopter, [you use] both arms, both legs and a wrist to fly that thing. You are truly a pilot in a helicopter."
He explained how DUSTOFF pilots would fly in using a tactical approach.
"You always turned your tail into the fire and set down," Brady said.
"Flying DUSTOFF, our job was to pick up the wounded. Oftentimes we picked them up during battle.
"If you have ever been in a situation like that you know that nobody wants to stand up," he said.
"Everybody is shooting and there is a tremendous amount of confusion going on. You just want to shrink - pucker. Pucker is when the cheeks from the lower part of your body slowly begin to envelop your ears," he explained, as the audience roared with laughter.
Following the presentation, several members of the audience asked Brady questions. One audience member asked Brady to describe the events leading up to him being awarded the Medal of Honor.
To which Brady replied, "You got two days'"
He briefly told the story.
According to a military history website (http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/vietnam-a-l.html) the citation read in part, "For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, Maj. Brady distinguished himself while serving in the Republic of Vietnam commanding a UH-1H ambulance helicopter, volunteered to rescue wounded men from a site in enemy held territory which was reported to be heavily defended and to be blanketed by fog. ... Throughout that day Maj. Brady utilized three helicopters to evacuate a total of 51 seriously wounded men, many of whom would have perished without prompt medical treatment."
Brady has recently written a book about his experiences in Vietnam entitled, "Dead Men Flying."