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Minnesota National Guard
Army aviators career transitions with ceremonial last flight

SAINT PAUL, Minn -- The 34th Combat Aviation Brigade said goodbye to one of its senior leaders Tuesday as Lt. Col. Eric Waage performed his ceremonial last flight at the Minnesota National Guard's Army Aviation Support Facility

Family and friends gathered at Holman Field to witness Waage's UH-60 Black Hawk lift off for the last time As the aircraft disappeared over the St Paul horizon the onlookers settled in for the long wait for his return

"I know he's going to miss flying a lot," said his wife Krismar "I'm sure he'll find a few toys to tinker with He's been looking at boats and has dreams of some day putting together a Piper Cub from a kit with our son Anders"

Waage's UH-60 was manned by long-time friends Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeff Pratt, State Standardization Instructor Pilot, and Command Sgt Maj Kelly Fisher, 2nd Battalion, 147th Assault Helicopter Battalion "These are guys I've been flying with for a long time," said Waage "That was nostalgic flying with them again"

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Waage began his aviation career flying UH-1H Hueys, AH-1 Cobras and CH-47 Chinooks as a copilot before changing over to over to Black Hawks "I know I'll miss flying a lot," said Waage "It's been part of my life for 22 years"

There are many memories over the years that stand out Loosing a tail rotor, and being able to land the aircraft, is quite a story "It was a night flight in a Huey up by Elk River," said Waage "The bird missed the windscreen, which was good, but it knocked off the tail rotor and gearbox Even with the dramatic loss of weight, causing the aircraft to "˜teeter-totter,' we were able to get the aircraft to the ground safely"

"I really enjoyed counterdrug flyin.g Supporting law enforcement was really interesting, challenging flying," said Waage He found other mission types including fire fighting and flood response particularly gratifying Search-and-rescue missions included the Katie Poirier, Dru Sjodin, and Julie Holmquist searches.

In another instance Waage's response to an emergency resulted in the saving of a life During a Canadian border patrol mission, Waage's crew came across a traffic accident where a gravel truck had struck a small car near Lake of the Woods, Minn "People were motioning us to land," said Waage "They had just extricated her Because it was an imminent threat to life we landed, they put her on the aircraft and we got her to the hospital Evidently, that saved her life"

Drawing upon years of community service, Waage will transition into his new role as the Director of Emergency Management for Hennepin County "My experience in the military helped lay the foundation for my ability to do that job," said Waage

He also gave kudos to the Army Aviation community in the Minnesota National Guard "What got me in the door as a college kid was all the fancy equipment and aircraft, but it's the people that kept me here," said Waage "The aviation community is fantastic They're very professional The best pilots, the best mechanics and the best support and flight ops people you could meet We saw that on the deployment I always felt the aircraft were maintained really well and I was flying with top-notch people You can't ask any more than that!"

Story and photos by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Ewer
34th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
23 Aug, 2011

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