"Getting the casualty and the physician together as soon as possible is the keystone of the practice of combat medicine. The helicopter achieved this goal as never before. Of equal importance was that the Medical Department was getting the two together in a hospital environment equipped to meet almost any situation.
The technical development of the helicopter ambulance, a primitive version of which had been used to a limited extent in the Korean War, the growth of a solid body of doctrine on air evacuation procedures, and the skill, ingenuity, and courage of the aircraft crewmen and medical aidmen who put theory into practice in a hostile environment made possible the hospitalization and evacuation system that evolved in Vietnam".
These words are those of our very Special Guest tonight-Major General Spurgeon NEEL. They are taken from his research book:
"Vietnam Studies—Medical Support of
The U.S. Army In Vietnam"
Hopefully, most of you were able to meet and speak with General NEEL this morning at the AMEDD Museum. As you paused to reflect at the Huey in Dustoff Memorial Plaza, I’m sure you read the plaque that so appropriately dedicates the Plaza to him.
General NEEL is factually and lovingly known as "The Father Of Dustoff". He honors us tonight by being with us. I will tell you that when he learned of this gathering, he was anxious to be here and say a few words to us. After all, we are his offspring.
General NEEL was born and educated in Memphis, Tennessee. He and Alice were married there, and he received his medical degree at the University of Tennessee in 1942, then was enrolled at the Medical Field Service School. At the end of World War II, he was in command of a medical company in the European Theater of Operations. He served in a variety of assignments in Europe and then Ft. Benning Georgia.
In the succeeding years MG Neel became involved in all phases of field and aviation medicine, achieving full qualification is these fields by training with the Army and Air Force. He graduated from the Command and General Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. When he retired he was the most decorated medical officer on active duty.
The list of contributions, papers, and actions he supervised, championed and organized is too long to enumerate. In 1949 MG NEEL stressed to the chief of the Army Field Forces the feasibility and desirability of using helicopters for medical evacuation. In 1951 he wrote some of the first medevac doctrine based on the successful use of helicopters in the Korean War. In 1955 he served as the medical member of an Army board that selected the new Army Utility Helicopter. We know that helicopter today as the UH-1 "Huey". This aircraft was chosen specifically based on its use as an air ambulance.
MG NEEL served on the board that led to the establishment of the 1st Cavalry Division with its own organic medevac platoon. During that same period, while serving as the Commander-U.S. Army Hospital at the Army Aviation Center, Ft. Rucker Alabama, he established the Aeromedical Research Laboratory and the first Directorate of Aeromedical Educaton and training, and the Aviation Medicine Residency Program.
MG NEEL developed, and was the first to be awarded the Army MOS –Flight Surgeon, and he was the first to be placed on flight status. He designed the flight wings for Aviation Medical Officers and was again the first to be awarded them.
MG NEEL commanded the 44th Medical Brigade in Vietnam in 1968, and was the Surgeon of the U.S. Military Command in Vietnam in 1969. His work and research in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association titled: "Army Aeronautical Evacuation Procedures in Vietnam: Implications for Rural America," was the major impetus for the Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic (MAST) program, which still exists, and is the pattern for civilian aeromedical operations.
In my research for this evening, I have learned that during the joint service level decision process for determining air evacuation responsibilities of the wounded in the field, the Air Force was highly favored to be given this new assignment. As the aviation branch of the U.S. military, they had the pilots. The debate was forceful in their favor. But MG NEEL strongly argued that the U.S. Army was not only capable of training personnel for this mission, but was also the logical service to perform the rescue of its own—the combat troops. MG NEELS voice was keenly heard, and because of his knowledge and passion for this mission, the Army was given the assignment, and the rest is history. A very distinguished history.
General NEEL, Sir, we are honored by your presence here with us tonight, and profoundly honored to have, in our service, played a small part in your vision for the evacuation and medical care of the wounded soldier, and our fellow man.
Ladies and gentlemen, Major General Spurgeon NEEL.