YAKIMA -- At the Yakima Training Center, CW4 Joe Long is about to retire ... for the second time.

Long turns 67 in January. He joined the army in 1968 -- 44 years ago. He s considered the oldest active-duty helicopter pilot to serve in Vietnam, according to the service.

Long logged more than 1,000 hours of combat flying in Vietnam. When the war was over, he switched to the heavy-lift, twin-rotor CH-47 Chinooks and helped train pilots on the workhorse helicopters.

Long is currently flying UH 72 Lakota air ambulances out of the Army s Yakima Training Center, and was instrumental in establishing MEDEVAC operations here. He s been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal for Valor and many other awards.

Long retired from the Army Reserves in 1995. By 2002, the Army and flying called him back again.

His son Michael became an Army helicopter pilot himself. Michael Long said his interest in flying probably can be traced to the day he got his dad to land a CH-47 behind his school. It made an impression.

Michael Long served two combat tours in Afghanistan flying the same aircraft. He is now a teacher in Minnesota.

After retirement, Long will head with his wife Carolyn to Smith Mountain Lake in Virginia. Two other children and a grandchild live back East. Long is a native of Bethesda, Maryland.

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