News: 1st ACB commander completes last flight
Story by Sgt. Alun Thomas
As the blades of the AH-64D Apache attack helicopter came to rest on Robert Gray Army Airfield, so did the aviation career of one senior pilot.
After 25 years and thousands of hours flying Apaches, Col. Douglas Gabram, from Cleveland, Ohio, commander, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, piloted his last flight in the aircraft, June 15, ending a quarter of a century of service supporting his nation from the sky.
Gabram was welcomed by hundreds of 1st ACB Soldiers as he landed on the airfield and said his final flight in an Apache was a bittersweet experience.
“I started here in 1985 as a platoon leader and now I’m finishing it with what is likely my last flight in a Longbow Apache,” Gabram said. “Coming in and seeing all the guys there waiting for me was very emotional.”
“I’ve had a good run and it’s better to be lucky than good sometimes,” Gabram added.
Gabram said flying in combat over four tours was one of his proudest experiences as a pilot as well as leading the Soldiers of the 1st ACB during their deployment to Iraq over the past year.
“Words can’t describe what they do and how to make it work during a deployment,” Gabram said. “Achieving the end state, which is supporting our ground Soldiers, takes high standards and discipline.”
“That, and bringing all our aircrew home safely has been the most fulfilling to me … and as a pilot, not crashing,” he joked.
Accompanying Gabram on his final flight was Chief Warrant Officer 5 Michael Reese, from Copperas Cove, Texas, the brigade’s standardizations instructor pilot, who said flying with Gabram over the last two years has been a positive experience.
“He’s a very proficient pilot and been flying Apaches longer than me … we flew exclusively together in Iraq through air assaults and typical missions,” Reese said.
Reese said Gabram’s final flight was a simple and enjoyable one, complete with the tradition of hosing down a retiring pilot after the flight is completed.
“Water and aircraft are traditional things. They mark a solo flight or the beginning and ending of a career,” Reese said. “You’re either thrown into a lake or there’s a fire truck with a hose. That signified his last flight in an Army aircraft at the flight controls.”
Reese was honored to fly with Gabram on his last Apache journey, capping off two years of working alongside each other.
“I think very highly of him [Gabram] and this is the best job I’ve ever had in the Army,” Reese said. “What made it great was working for him.”