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Face of Defense: Surgical Tech Becomes Army Aviator

By Army Staff Sgt. Regina Machine
13th Public Affairs Detachment

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait, Jan. 31, 2012 – Army Maj. Jonathan Steinbach, an aviator with the Washington National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation Regiment assigned to 3rd Army/U.S. Army Central Aviation Task Force Raptors here, took an unusual route to the cockpit.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Maj. Jonathan Steinbach briefs passengers who will be joining him on a trip over the Kuwaiti desert, Nov. 8, 2011. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Regina Machine

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“I was an enlisted surgical technician in the Army Reserve,” Steinbach said. “I worked as a surgical technician at a private hospital while I was a cadet in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at University of California–Berkley.”

The summer before his senior year, the Spokane, Wash., native decided to join the active-duty Army as an infantry soldier, but his ROTC advisor encouraged him to become an aviator instead.

“It sounded interesting, flying helicopters, so I did a flight physical and requested it,” he said. “I was then branched aviation in the regular Army.”

Even though going from the operating room to the cockpit of a helicopter was a unique transition, Steinbach completed it with ease. When he completed his regular Army commitment in 2003, Steinbach moved to Washington for work and asked the battalion commander of the local National Guard headquarters where he was needed the most. The battalion commander told him he was needed with Company C, 1st Battalion, 168th General Support Aviation Regiment, so he put his uniform back on and returned to aviation.

As the Task Force Raptors liaison, Steinbach works to shape the mission and set appropriate expectations with clients. The unit provides air movement support to leaders and distinguished visitors in 3rd Army’s area of responsibility. Although being an aviation liaison can prove to be time consuming, it does not stop the pilots from maintaining proficiency with their skills.

“Major Steinbach and I are both current UH-60 Black Hawk pilots,” said Army 1st Lt. Jason Miller, a Shelton, Wash., native and deputy aviation task force liaison, also assigned to Company C. They maintain their currency by flying missions at Camp Beuhring, he added.

Steinbach said he is proud of the job that the members of his unit do here as well as at their home station.

“The young men and women in the flight company make me incredibly proud to be a soldier and an aviator,” he said. “When I go out to the flightline with a very important person and I see the crew chief standing at attention and rendering a salute under the rotor disk of a raging Black Hawk, my chest swells with pride.”

Steinbach has not fully left his operating room roots. As a civilian, he is a sales representative for a less invasive surgical treatment. In the operating room, Steinbach said, he refers to himself as an instructor pilot.

“I teach surgeons how to do surgery with a robot, and I teach nurses and technicians how to give the surgeons what they need while keeping the patient safe throughout the procedure,” he explained.

Steinbach said he considers himself fortunate to be able to use the two career skills he has learned while in the Army to assist others, and credits his fellow aviators for his continued success here.

“As a staff aviator, I do not consider myself to be the best pilot,” Steinbach added. “The other pilots and crew chiefs are so patient and generous with their skills and their experiences, it makes me proud to be in their community.”


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