Parachutist Wings

Gilbert E. “Gib” Brown, Jr. Commander, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) WebMaster

The following story is unique in the annals of Coast Guard Aviation History. I know of no other situation like this and while on active duty including 7 years of continuous service at Coast Guard Headquarters in several different roles – Operations, Training, Long Range Planning, and Special Projects this was not known, and never discussed. I served at Headquarters from July 1965 through June 1972. At the request of the individual submitting this information to us, his name is to remain undisclosed until he removes that restriction. His story follows.

Never one to avoid muddying the waters further, might I suggest that there was one additional set of wings worn for a very limited period from 1969-1971. That of a parachutist.

I was recruited into the United States Coast Guard and assigned to the Coast Guard Air Station, Saint Petersburg, Florida as an experiment in the use of a fully-qualified para-scuba rescueman.

The experiment was a failure. Due in equal parts to my personality and to the total absence of any doctrine within the Coast Guard regarding the employment of such an individual.

During this entire period, although I was never employed operationally in the role of a parachutist in the Coast Guard setting, I did maintain my parachute qualification. Ironically, I was utilized in a medical role on more than one military airborne operation treating Army, Navy, and Marine Corps personnel injured during the operations.

During this same period, the parachute riggers (PR ratings) never actually jumped. When this rating was converted to ASM the issue became moot.

As you are aware, there was no Rescue Swimmer program in those days. When the Rescue Swimmer program was initiated within the Coast Guard, it followed the pattern of the US Navy Aviation Rescue Swimmer, not the model of the USAF “PJ”, which my training and prior experience represented. Experience which included flying over a hundred combat missions as the medical specialist on an air ambulance (“Dustoff”) in the Mekong Delta, during the Vietnam War.

While at CGAS Saint Petersburg, I qualified as an aircrew member in the HH-52 and the SA-16. I was also on-call every third day as the “ready Corpsman” for rescue missions. After CGAS Saint Petersburg, I became the independent duty hospital corpsman for the Coast Guard Presidential Support Activity in Alexandria, Virginia, wherein I continued to maintain my parachutist qualification.

I am attaching a set of my orders. These covered me from HM3 to HM1-ZZ. In 1971, I separated from the Coast Guard to complete my undergraduate college education. I subsequently went on to return to duty with the Army Special Forces (the “Green Berets”), from which I was retired in 1996 for combat-related injuries, after more than thirty years of military service. Over the years I also acquired several graduates degrees, to build on that undergraduate degree which I left the Coast Guard to receive.

I also went on to retire from the Coast Guard Auxiliary; my admiration for the Coast Guard, its mission, and its members, never having waned.

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2017-07-21T18:44:57+00:00