Former nurse shares Operation Babylift experience

  • Published
  • By Jaime Bishopp
Operation Babylift flight nurse, retired Col. Regina Aune, spoke virtually to 96th Medical Group personnel during a discussion panel, May 9, 2022.

The panel was part of the 96 MDG’s opening ceremonies to Nurse Tech Week.

Aune was the lead medical officer on the first Operation Babylift mission April 4, 1975, which aimed to rescue Vietnamese orphans from Saigon (present day Ho Chi Minh). Aune and her crew loaded 270 orphans, most of whom were infants, and 53 civilians onto a C-5 that was not equipped for medical evacuations.

Shortly after takeoff, the plane suffered an in-flight emergency and crashed. Despite less than two years of experience as a flight nurse and multiple injuries from the crash, Aune helped rescue more than 140 of the children on the flight.

Reflecting on that mission, Aune said she wondered if that mission made a difference at all or if there was anything meaningful in what she was doing with the military.

“Some days it’s hard to talk about it, even though it’s been 47 years. I have learned to live with hope in this experience,” Aune stated. “What we do as military members, what we do as human beings, to help others, really does have an impact.”

Operation Babylift’s goal was to rescue 3,000 Vietnamese orphans over 30 planned flights. Despite the tragic start Aune experienced, more than 3000 orphans were evacuated from Saigon.

The panel also featured retired Col. Linda Pugsley and Col. Michele Shelton, who spoke of their time in service and combat nursing.

“The Air Force and all my experiences there affected me the rest of my life in a very positive manner, even though some of it was very difficult and very negative,” said Pugsley, a Vietnam-era nurse.