From Vietnam To OEF,
Pilot Flies Last Mission Of Career
By David Salanitri
April 19, 2012 - Lt. Col. James Routt, a pilot deployed
with the 71st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, flew the
last combat air mission of his 33-year military career
over the skies of Afghanistan, April 12.
During his career, Routt has witnessed several
operations from Vietnam to Operation Enduring Freedom
(OEF) in Afghanistan the history Routt has been part of
could fill half of a high school student's history
After retiring from the Air Force in 1996, Routt was one
of about 200 officers selected under the Retired Aviator
Recall program to return to active duty.
"I was essentially hired by the 550th Special Operations Squadron (at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.) to support the MC-130P Hercules and HC-130P/N King training programs," Routt said. "My main function was to train and mentor the younger instructors and bring my level of aviation experience to the school house."
|Lt. Col. James Routt flies the last combat mission of his career in a HC-130P at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, April 12, 2012. Routt is currently the oldest active pilot in the Air Force and is augmenting for the 71st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron. Routt is an HC-130P pilot with the 550th Special Operations Squadron.|
Routt interact among his fellow aircrew members in his squadron
at Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan, has the feeling of
constant mentorship ... like a hall of fame baseball player
hanging out among young, thirsty major-league players. The
average age of his aircrew is about 26 years old -- Routt has 29
years as an aircraft commander alone in the Air Force.
from the squadron that trains MC-130Ps and HC-130P/Ns, Routt has
worked with most of the pilots in this squadron before,
including the squadron commander.
Routt graduated from Oregon State, attended Officer Training School and soon joined the B-52 Stratofortress community in March 1971. His love for flying however, started decades earlier. "I came into the Air Force because I wanted to fly," Routt said. "Ever since I was a little kid, I just wanted to be an Air Force pilot. Little did I know that dream would turn into a career that has lasted this long." Throughout Routt's career, he has seen changes, not only in the Air Force, but in military life as a whole.
"When I came back
from supporting Operation Linebacker II, we were greeted at the airport
with harsh, unfriendly words from people who saw us in uniform," said
Routt, who was a mission planner for the B-52 Stratofortress during
Operation Linebacker II. "It's amazing how much things have changed.
Nowadays, people will offer to buy me coffee and ask to shake my hand,
just because I wear this uniform." Unfriendly verbal jabs from the
Vietnam War-era population wasn't the only challenge Routt has faced.
"In October 2009,
my wife passed away from cancer," said Routt. "We still had a son in
high school at the time. After his graduation and the start of his
college education, I once again asked if there was an opportunity to
deploy with either a (special operations forces) or rescue squadron. The
71st ERS welcomed the opportunity for me to deploy with them in February
accomplishments, one honor specifically sticks out to him, when
reflecting on his career. "I received the Master Air Pilot Certificate
from the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators," he said.
It's common that
when folks get close to graduating school, leaving a job or retiring,
they try to coast through their short time left as easily as possible,
but Routt is taking a different approach.
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