It is with deep sadness we announce that COL(R) Ernie Sylvester, 74 of Tampa, passed away on the morning of 14 Aug 15. Born in New Orleans, LA, growing up in Gulfport, MS., Ernie served his country in the US Army in his early career as a air ambulance pilot, and later as a Hospital Administrator. Ernie was a Past President of the Dustoff Association (2004-05) and a member of theDUSTOFF Association Hall of Fame.
In 1964, as a 2LT, he was assigned to the famed 57th Medical Detachment (AA) in Soc Trang, Vietnam. He often flew as MAJ Kelly’s co-pilot, flying in all conditions, and directly into the teeth of the enemy to save the wounded under the most dangerous conditions. Ernie was the first Army helicopter pilot to exceed 1000 hours of flight time in a 12-month period, and was the Pilot-in-Command of the helicopter that recovered MAJ Kelly’s body when he was killed on 1 July 1964. He carried the lessons learned from Kelly forward to the newly arrived 82nd Medical Detachment (AA) in the fall of 1964, and commanded both the 54th and 68th Medical Detachments in Vietnam in 1970. During his two tours in Vietnam, he earned three DFCs, 47 Air Medals (multiple with V/device), the Bronze Star with V, and the Purple Heart.
The DUSTOFF Association strives to both honor and follow in the huge footsteps left by those who paved the way. Ernie was one of those who left a lasting legacy through his humility, his gregarious personality, and his selfless service as a leader and mentor in the DUSTOFF community. He was also a dedicated leader within his church and a highly respected individual within his community.