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William Pitsenbarger - "Pits" - was assigned to the 41st Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron on Hamilton AFB, as an Paramedic - Jumper (PJ) - jump and combat qualified - to be dropped in to rescue people in distress and administer top of the line first aid.[Ed Note: The Air Rescue Service (ARS) was established in 1946 under the Air Transport Command, just before the U. Air Force's designation as a separate service in 1947, as a sub-command of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS).WARC was a rescue coordination center covering the 8 western states plus Alaska.Any incident, civilian or military, involving a missing aircraft, was coordinated through our rescue coordination center. It featured a massive mapping table (12'12') with topo maps covering every square inch of our coverage area, and a telephone banks plugged into every single rescue group, bloodhound owners, and search volunteers in the eight western states!
We had 14 Detachments covering the 8 western states. The field of blue represents the Sky from which our mission is accomplished, with a star for each of the Air Rescue Detachments, plus Alaska, within Western Air Rescue Center.One day just after lunch, our Commanding Officer called us into a conference room. We saw it on the evening news with Walter Cronkite. Until you recognize a name and match it to a face, a real personality. Pitsenbarger received the Air Force Cross posthumously on June 30, 1966. Salem was assigned to us at Western Air Rescue Center as our Flying Safety Officer, responsible for training and check riding pilots and crews at our 14 Local Base Rescue (LBR's) in the eight western states.In a barely audible voice he read aloud a classified message, that I had just picked up from the Western Union Message Center, notifying all Air Rescue Service Personnel that "Pits" wasn't coming home. Pits had been lowered on a jungle perpetrator to render medical aid to army troops. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.Each Detachment had two Kaman Huskie HH-43B rescue helicopters, standing by to support local training flights. The thunder bolt and olive branch symbolize our mission in time of war or peace, and the Airman and Space capsule; those who depend on us. Open bay barracks were sparse; a bunk, a locker, a dresser and a lot of roommates!Worse, I was the only one from WARC amongst the 41st Air Rescue dudes.
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