The U.S. Army has deactivated the 57th Medical Co. (Air Ambulance), whose "Dustoff" call sign during the Vietnam War became synonymous with medical evacuation and whose exploits helped secure the role of helicopters in military and rescue operations.
Deactivated Jan. 26, the 57th was created in 1964 and evacuated more than 100,000 casualties from the battlefield during the Vietnam war.
Retired Staff Sgt. Thomas L. "Igor" Johnson flew with the 57th on his two tours in Vietnam, from 1965 to 1966 and again from 1967 to 1968. He served as a crew chief and maintained the UH-1B, UH-1D and UH-1H Hueys that flew the medevac flights. "Dustoff" units flew unarmed, Johnson said, leading to a "high casualty rate" among soldiers who were assigned to the company during the Vietnam War. When the suggestion was made that two machine guns and 6,000 rounds of ammunition be mounted on the aircraft, it was turned down. It would have, said Johnson, taken up the space of two seats in the back of the aircraft, which translated to four liters.
The 57th most recently was headquartered in Balad, Iraq, with three satellite units stationed throughout the country.