Wilford Hall holds dedication ceremony for C-9 Nightingale
By Sue Campbell, 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 31, 2006
LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Active duty and retired military medical personnel gathered here Aug. 31 to dedicate the C-9 Nightingale static display.
Nicknamed the "Cadillac of Medevac" and the "Workhorse" for aeromedical evacuation, it provided service not only to the military, but also to the Department of Veterans Affairs and civilian hospitals throughout the world.
The C-9 is the only aircraft in the Air Force inventory specifically designed for movement of litter and ambulatory patients. The first C-9A was rolled from its flightline hangar in Longbeach, Calif. ,while another performed a fly-over June 17, 1968.
Lt. Col. Mary Ann Tonne, chief nurse of the 375th Aeromedical Airlift Wing, was on hand to accept the aircraft from Donald Douglas Jr., president of the Douglas Aircraft Division of the McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Corporation. Colonel Tonne named the aircraft the "Nightingale" in honor of Florence Nightingale, the British nurse who pioneered military nursing during the Crimean War.
From that date in 1968 until its last aeromedical evacuation mission was flown in the continental United States Aug. 11, 2003, the Nightingale supported the Vietnam War; the Iranian Hostage Crisis; the Bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut; Operations Urgent Fury, Just Cause, Desert Shield and Desert Storm; and Allied Force. It was also on hand following the bombing of the USS Cole, for multiple presidential trips and space shuttle missions and, most recently, to transport wounded as they returned home from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
The C-9 fleet was retired from active duty in 2003 and from Reserve status in 2005. The aircraft, tail number 878, was transferred to Lackland AFB in March from the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Guest speakers during the dedication ceremony were Maj. Gen. Melissa Rank, assistant Air Force surgeon general for medical force development and nursing services, and Col. Byron Hepburn, command surgeon for Headquarters Air Mobility Command. Both individuals have flown numerous missions on the C-9.
Colonel Hepburn shared nostalgic stories about C-9 missions and commended everyone who was a part of the aircraft's history.
"This aircraft represents excellence in aviation technology and medical science. It honors the hundreds of professional officers, noncommissioned officers and Airmen who worked as cohesive teams to save the lives of others," he said. "As the C-9 flew around the globe, it served as a very real demonstration of our nation's commitment to our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. That commitment, teamwork and compassion are demonstrated today by our dedicated air evacuation professionals."
General Rank said the C-9 mission was a total force effort since its inception, with interaction of active duty, Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard Airmen.
"The C-9 was undoubtedly the flagship of medical evacuation," General Rank said. "The very sight of the red cross on the tail was a symbol of hope, care and relief to servicemen and women at home and abroad, in time of war and peace. As this great partnership passes into history, its proud heritage will carry on.
"As we enter a new era of aeromedical evacuation, this C-9 dedication reminds us of our past and recognizes the tremendous milestones and accomplishments of those who came before us. The first C-9 aeromedical crews were pioneers, venturing into an area that was unexplored, diverse and challenging. All who have followed in their footsteps are living that legacy."