Bob “Budgie” Romines was drafted into the Army when he was just nine hours shy of completing his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University. Though they had no way of knowing it then, 3,620 people would be very fortunate that the Henderson, Texas native who had described himself as “majoring in fraternity” had been tagged by the Army to fly medical evacuation missions in Vietnam.
The Vietnam War marked the first widespread use of the helicopter to evacuate the wounded from the battlefield. Army medevac “Dustoff” units shared a creed: No hesitation. No compromise. Fly the mission.
In their unarmed UH-1 Huey helicopters, four-person crews including two pilots, a crew chief and an onboard medic flew into enemy fire daily to rescue wounded soldiers, civilians, and sometimes even enemy combatants for the simple, noble purpose of saving a life. Their remarkable record in Vietnam – more than 900,000 patient medical evacuations – resulted in an unprecedented survival rate for wounded troops. Army historians believe that if not for Dustoff, American Killed In Action numbers in Vietnam would have exceeded those of World War II.
Texan Bob Romines flew 1,471 Dustoff missions during his one-year tour in 1968-1969 as a pilot with the 45th Medical Company. His crew members described him as “fearless” in his commitment to taking his helicopter into enemy fire in order to get the wounded off the battlefield as quickly as possible. Romines earned the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, five awards of the Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Medal with 30 Oak Leaf Clusters for his work evacuating 3,620 wounded from the battlefield.
After the war, Bob Romines became Chief of the Medical Service Corps Activities Office, training and mentoring scores of future Dustoff pilots to carry on the life-saving legacy established by him and his fellow Vietnam helicopter medical evacuation veterans. He retired from the Army as a Colonel. Romines was inducted in the Dustoff Hall of Fame in 2008. He passed away in 2010.