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McCoy utilizes vast military medical experience to go ‘where no man has gone before’

  • Published
  • By SrA Sara Hoerichs
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Most military members serve in one branch and spend their entire careers in either the enlisted or officer ranks. The same can’t be said for Col. (Dr.) Robert “Bones” McCoy, 62nd Medical Squadron commander. McCoy has experienced it all - four military branches, enlisted and officer tiers, active duty, reserve and National Guard. Throughout it all, his love for medicine has been a constant.

“I’d wanted to be a doctor since I was a little kid,” McCoy said. “I just had to figure out how I was going to get there and how I’d be able to pay for it. My twin brother had joined the military and told me about the kind of benefits I could get for schooling.”

In 1983, McCoy joined the Navy Reserves as a corpsman, thinking that the GI Bill would put him through college and being in the Navy meant he wouldn’t have to sleep in a tent. He learned quickly that would not be the case when he was attached to a Marine weapons company for his first assignment.

“I thought it was going to be the worst thing ever, but it turned out to be a blessing,” McCoy said. “That experience was just priceless.”

From dispensing medications and ordering labs to starting IVs and suturing wounds, McCoy provided medical care to Marines for six years. During that time, he also finished his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and applied for medical school at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

McCoy earned a direct commission in the Ohio Army National Guard upon acceptance into medical school. As a soldier, McCoy used the skills and experience he’d learned with the Navy and Marines to succeed in his classes.

“When it came time for my surgery rotation, I could laugh about the surgeons chewing me out,” McCoy said. “They wanted to see if I could be intimidated, but after the Marines, the surgeons weren’t so bad.”

After completing his medical residency, McCoy set his sights on flying.

“I wanted to be a flight surgeon,” McCoy said. “The Army didn’t have the money to send me, but the Air Force Reserves just asked me when I wanted to start school, so I transferred to the Reserves.”

He was assigned to the 445th Aeromedical Staging Squadron at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and became a flight surgeon. While there, McCoy helped start the squadron’s Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT) program, making it the first reserve unit with a CCATT program, a specialized three-person medical team that augments a standard aeromedical evacuation unit. While the aeromedical evacuation unit can turn an aircraft into a flying hospital, a CCATT can turn that aircraft into an intensive care unit.

“In the Marines, I learned to be ingenious and figure things out,” McCoy said. “That kind of background made CCATT a lot easier because I was used to improvising since you just had what you brought with you.”

McCoy deployed to Afghanistan for a year in 2003 as the CCAAT leader. When he returned to the United States, he wanted to fly more frequently than he was able to in the reserves and transferred to the Ohio Air National Guard where he was the chief flight surgeon.

“Being a flight surgeon and taking care of flyers is something I really enjoy,” McCoy said.

Always ready for the next challenge, McCoy started an aerospace medicine residency.

“I always wanted to do the RAM, Residency in Aerospace Medicine,” McCoy said. “I learned a lot and got to spend time with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and our Army and Navy counterparts.”

Now board certified in aerospace medicine, McCoy transitioned to active duty and was assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord as the 62nd Medical Squadron (MDS) commander in July 2018.

“Col. McCoy has one of the most unique and diverse backgrounds that I have ever seen throughout my career,” said Lt. Col. Hiram Ortiz, 62nd MDS administrator. “He spent time as a chemist and graduated from medical school as a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Our team continues to benefit from his vast wealth of knowledge and experience.”

As a squadron commander at a joint base, McCoy draws on both his military and medical experience to lead the unit.

“This is a great place to be,” McCoy said. “It’s a great unit with great people and I have the honor of helping them succeed.”

When asked about the newest branch of the military, McCoy laughed.

“If they offer me the surgeon general’s spot for the Space Force, I’ll transfer over,” he said. “As Dr. McCoy, it’s just kind of fitting.”