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    Medevac pilot reflects on his Cherokee heritage

    Medevac pilot reflects on his Cherokee heritage

    Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Houston | Capt. Eric Doe, a native of Long Island, N.Y., poses for a portrait at Fort Bragg,...... read more read more



    Story by Staff Sgt. Whitney Houston 

    U.S. Forces Afghanistan

    AFGHANISTAN - For more than 200 years, Native Americans have served with distinction in the ranks of the U.S. military. Their bravery and dedication has played a significant role in military victories.

    Capt. Eric Doe, a Long Island, New York, native who serves as a battle captain and aeromedical evacuation pilot with Task Force Pale Horse, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, is one of the approximately 22,000 Native Americans serving in today’s military and carrying on that tradition of service. Doe and his unit provide aerial over watch for three aviation task forces in Train Advise and Assist Commands East and South from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

    “My job is basically to manage the overall day-to-day aspects of Task Force Corsair, Task Force Talon, and Task Force Wolf Pack,” Doe said. “I need to understand what they’re doing so I can provide my commander oversight and situational awareness of what’s happening in theater, which enables them to make sound operational decisions in a timely manner. "

    “It’s a pretty intense job. Twelve hours a day you’re focused and making sure nothing bad happens. If something bad does happen, you’re allocating the appropriate resources and getting players into the game.”

    Doe’s experience flying on the battlefield has given him a sound knowledge of what it takes for the task forces to perform their Black Hawk missions in Afghanistan.

    “What first struck me about Capt. Doe is how mission-oriented he is. He’s very thorough in what he does. He really cares about Soldiers and is very approachable. I have really enjoyed having him work for me,” said Maj. Caryn Butler, who serves as tactical operation center chief of operations with TF Pale Horse.

    Occasionally, Doe will fill his additional duty as a medevac pilot, which was his primary duty on his first tour to Afghanistan in 2007. During that time at Jalalabad Airfield, he had a direct hand in saving lives on many occasions.

    “It’s probably one of the most rewarding assignments that I’ve ever had, or could have in my Army career,” Doe said. “There’s nothing like it. When you get to cheat death and say ‘Not today. This one lives. This one’s going home. This one’s coming with me,’ it’s the best feeling in the world.”

    Evacuating the sick and wounded from the battlefield left many indelible impressions on him that continue to shape who he is as an aviator. One such instance was extracting a young Soldier who was wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade in eastern Afghanistan.

    “My very first dust off [medevac] mission was back in 2007. We got a call that this young Soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade out of Vicenza, Italy, had been hit while in his vehicle with an RPG that peppered his whole left side with shrapnel,” Doe said.

    Doe explained the wounded Soldier’s comrades dressed his wounds and put him on a gurney next to a humvee while waiting for the medevac helicopter to arrive. The wounded Soldier later told Doe that his mind was inundated with thoughts that he would die there, until Doe’s helicopter came into view. Then the Soldier’s despair was replaced with a hope he would live.

    “That moment changed me. It was one of those things that happens in your life that makes you a different person,” Doe said. “It put everything into perspective for me, of why I’m here and why I’m doing this job, and what the job meant to me. Nothing that I’ve experienced compares to saving a life.”

    Doe attributes a lot of his career success to his wife Jenny, and son Gavin. They drive him to succeed, he said, and the day his son was born, he knew that all of his decisions from that point on would revolve around his well being.

    “Jenny is absolutely the best. She keeps me focused and on task; I can’t shout her praises enough, and my boy Gavin gives me reason for everything,” Doe said.

    Doe believes that everything happens for a reason, a belief that was instilled by both his mother, who is African American, and his father, who is Cherokee.

    “I remember my mother always saying when I was growing up that everything happens for a reason, to never worry and that everything has a way of working itself out,” he said.

    “My father also told me a story when I was young that I draw back on often about why we have déjà vu,” Doe said. “Some Native Americans believe when babies are sleeping that angels are showing them their whole life. That’s why you see them make faces, clench their fists, laugh and cry. So when you have déjà vu, it’s because you’ve already been shown that portion of your life and it’s an actual memory you already have.”

    Doe explained that his belief in fate doesn’t come without effort, that luck or fate is where opportunity meets preparation, and that you have to have an active role in it for it to take its effect through your life’s journey.

    Although Doe’s parents were of different ethnicities and cultures, Doe explained he always knew who he was. He said that he never felt conflicted between cultures but rather had a deep pride and love for both.

    His love for his Cherokee heritage came from his father’s influence, and bringing him to powwows where he would see his father interact within his own culture.

    “I’ve always grown up with my father as an extremely prideful Native American. When we’d go to these powwows in South Carolina, I would see him surrounded by his culture. His smile was always a little bigger, his chest stuck out a little more and it’s those little things that I paid attention to.

    “That same pride my father has, I have,” Doe said. “I want to pass that same pride on to my son. It’s not something that every culture does, but I have the opportunity to do it, and I look forward to it.”

    Doe said that as a Native American serving in the Army, he is proud to walk in the footsteps of giants. He mentioned, in particular, his Cherokee brothers that have been awarded the Medal of Honor and fixed their place in American history.



    Date Taken: 11.26.2014
    Date Posted: 11.26.2014 00:40
    Story ID: 148861
    Location: AF
    Hometown: FORT BRAGG, NC, US
    Hometown: LONG ISLAND, NY, US

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