The Role of USAF Flight Surgeons During the Vietnam Conflict
SCHOOL OF AEROSPACE MEDICINE BROOKS AFB TX
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The author reviewed the historical literature from 1917 through the Korean War in order to ascertain the origin of the roles and functions of flight surgeons in combat. The only existing study that interviewed the consumer aircrew to measure the value of flight surgeons in World War II recorded a 71.6 favorable response rate and an 18.9 unfavorable response rate. Significantly positive comments centered around medical expertise, presence of flight surgeons at briefings and on the flight line, and the instruction given. Interviews with 30 USAF aircrew members who flew in Southeast Asia for a total of 35 tours revealed some comparably favorable evaluations. These now-senior officers rated their remembered flight surgeons high in the area of medical expertise and in interpersonal relations. Those who had no recollection or limited contact agreed that interpersonal relations and medical expertise rated high in their judgment of flight surgeons. The area of military expertise, to include personal appearance, military courtesies, and use of military systems, rated slightly positive comparable to aircrew members and was viewed as not particularly valuable for flight surgeons. In contrast to the World War II experience, teaching and instruction were rarely existent during their combat flying. Most felt strongly that it would have enhanced the value of the flight surgeon and improved the flying mission if instruction, classes, etc., had been present. These findings hold significance for those who train, supervise, and plan doctrine for military flight surgeons.
- Humanities and History
- Personnel Management and Labor Relations