Civilian historian headed to combat





1 More than 30 years after he served as an Army helicopter pilot over the forests of Vietnam, Charles "Doc" Merkel, 64, is going on another combat deployment.

But much has changed in the last 30 years.

Merkel is a civilian employee of the Air Force now--he retired as a major from active-duty after serving 20 years--and he's no longer a helicopter pilot. He's a historian.

As historian for the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, Merkel is responsible for tracking and recording the unit's activities, cataloging significant events and interviewing unit members as part of his research.

In September, Merkel will be deploying to Kandahar, Afghanistan, for a five-month tour as the historian for the deployed 451st Expeditionary Wing.

"I'll be in charge of chronicling the events of a wing that just stood up at Kandahar," Merkel said.

More than 30 years ago, he deployed to Vietnam as a member of Casper Platoon, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and he said he's looking forward to supporting military activities overseas once more.

Merkel recently completed predeployment combat skills training where he was taught about handling weapons, treating traumatic injuries and staying safe in a combat environment.

The training also involved field exercises where Merkel ran, jumped and belly-crawled through a simulated combat environment while wielding an M-16 rifle.

"I'm not 20 anymore, and (I'm) a little annoyed about that," Merkel said. "However, the deployment training breathes new life into a person."...


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Linda Katherine Johnson - 4/7/2010

It's great to see that you are deploying in the field that you love most and I know that if Mark could see you now, he'd be quite pleased. I sure am and I envy you too. LJ.