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Petrosky retired as Lieutenant General after 37 years in Army

Note: This article appeared in the Jan. 6 edition of the “Redstone Rocket.” This article was written by “Redstone Rocket” Editor Skip Vaughn and reprinted by permission. (skip.vaughn@theredstonerocket.com)

HUNTSVILLE – A native of Columbus, Ohio, Dan Petrosky received his draft notice in June 1966 and entered the U.S. Army to fulfill his duty.

“My grandfather fought in World War I, my dad in World War II, and now it was my turn,” he said.

He served through January 2003 and retired as a Lieutenant General after 37-plus years. His last position was Chief of Staff for U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany.

After Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training, Petrosky became drill instructor assistant and taught Basic Training. He received an offer to Officer Candidate School and worked as artilleryman.

He and his buddies later decided to enter flight school. Petrosky competed basic flight instruction at Fort Wolters, Texas and advanced flight instruction at Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, Ga. As a 25-year-old Captain, he went to Vietnam as gunship helicopter pilot for an AH-1 G Cobra. During 1969-1970, he flew with 101st Airborne Division along demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam.

“We supported infantry forces on the ground … our major mission. Supporting the infantry in contact with the enemy was our top priority. We would never leave until that mission was resolved in favor of our soldiers,” Petrosky said. Years later, he flew Apache helicopters in combat during Operation Desert Storm.

Petrosky earned 30 Air Medals, including 29 for Vietnam and two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

“Vietnam combat veterans … learned to trust each other. … You had to trust your buddy was doing his mission and you were doing yours,” Petrosky said. “The Vietnam War taught our Army the importance of taking care of soldiers and their families.”

When he left Vietnam in 1970 and landed at a state of Washington airport, a crowd of protesters was yelling obscenities. This atmosphere contrasted to parades he experienced in New York City and Washington D.C. after leaving Iraq from the Persian Gulf War.

Using the GI Bill, Petrosky finished college and earned a master’s degree. He served as Deputy Commander of 101st as Brigadier General in 1994. He commanded Fort Rucker as Major General and the 8th Army in Korea as Lieutenant General in 1998-2000.

Petrosky, 76, is a past national president of Army Aviation Association of America and past president of Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker. He was inducted into Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 2009. A Huntsville resident, Petrosky and wife Barb have one son, one daughter and five grandchildren.

Commenting on the 50-year milestone since the Vietnam War, Petrosky said the commemoration is important. “Youngsters that weren’t alive at that time understand what the Vietnam veterans did — that they were heroic, courageous and demonstrated what selfless service means. They didn’t ask for accolades. They just did their mission.”

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