Into the wild blue yonder: a look at the life of McChord Reservist 1st Lt. Paul Hall

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Rachael Garneau
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
In 1990, 1st Lt. Paul Hall enlisted in the Air Force. His service since then has led him from the active-duty world as an enlisted rescue and recovery specialist to Hangar 12 on McChord Field, Wash., where he currently works as a traditional Reservist. Twenty-three years after he originally joined the service, Hall is now a medical service corps officer and the medical readiness deputy flight commander with the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron.
Hall's long military career brought him through many countries, career fields, and dangerous situations. His deployments spanned the globe. This interview gives you insight beyond the military career and into a realm most servicemembers don't get to see and most Reservists don't have time to explore.

446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs: What year did you originally join the Air Force?

Hall: I joined July 20, 1990, in the general mechanical career field. Originally, I had wanted to be fighter jet mechanic. However, once I got to basic training, the only mechanical job available was as a fuels specialist. So, I volunteered for pararescue.

446th AW/PA: What did you do as a pararescue Airman?

Hall: The technical title for pararescue is rescue and recovery specialist, but the nickname from the Vietnam days was "paramedic jumpers," or PJ, for short. I was assigned to Silver Team in the special tactics squadron under the Air Force Special Operations Command. I was in the 320th STS at Kadena Air Base, Japan, and 321st STS at Mildenhall Royal Air Force Base, United Kingdom.

446th AW/PA:: What were some of your best experiences from your time in pararescue?

Hall: I have been to Thailand, Korea, Turkey, Iraq, Australia, Japan, England, Italy, Spain, Namibia Africa, Albania, Bosnia and Malaysia. One of my favorite experiences was attending the Jungle Survival School in Malaysia. It was three weeks long and all we had was a knife, machete, medical kit, canteen and a small bag of rice. We built our own shelter out of bamboo and ate whatever wildlife and vegetation we could find. Our shower was a waterfall and our tub was a nearby hot spring. It wasn't all fun and games; the banana spiders were about five inches in diameter and there was a serious leach infestation, not to mention the mosquitoes. Our bag of rice lasted only three days so it was a true survival situation. We ate snakes, frogs, lizards, geckos, coconuts, tapioca roots, bamboo shoots and bananas just to stay alive. I learned a lot about myself and what the human body can endure during that course.

446th AW/PA:
What year did you join the Air Force Reserve?

Hall: I got out of active duty in August of 1998.I had made arrangements to transfer directly into the 304th Rescue Squadron in Portland, Ore. When I showed up, they expressed that they had a 2 year wait list to get into the unit. Understandable, since this was (the time before) 9-11. They also wanted me to move within 30 minutes of Portland if they accepted me, which was not going to work for me. I already owned a house in Lacey, Wash., and was enrolled full time in college. So, my alternative was to see what McChord (Field) had available. I (joined the Reserve and) cross trained as a medical services technician.

446th AW/PA: When did you originally move to Wash.?

Hall: My parents were stationed at Fort Lewis in 1985, just as I was about to begin high school, and I've lived here ever since. Even though I was born in Texas, I consider Washington my home state.

446th AW/PA: You said you became an officer in 2010, what made you make the switch?

Hall: I come from a long legacy of military (service). My grandfathers were in the Army during (World War II). My parents were officers in the Army, as well. (My father) was a helicopter pilot during Vietnam and (my mother) was a logistics officer during Desert Storm. My goal from the beginning was to go to college and become an officer. It never seemed possible until the Medical Services Corps officers in my unit kept hounding me to finish my degree so they could send me up to the MSC board.

446th AW/PA: How did growing up as a military dependent play into your military career?

Hall: There's a sense of pride when you grow up living around the military. Saying the pledge of allegiance in school is one thing, but how many children can say they stand for the National Anthem before every movie? Military brats travel a lot to different countries. In my case, (we lived in) Germany for four years. (Because of the frequent moves), we are able to adapt quickly and make friends everywhere. My parents encouraged me to join the military.

446th AW/PA: What are the highlights from your deployment history?

Hall: With pararescue, I was deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of Operation Provide Comfort in 1994 to cover the northern "No-Fly Zone" in Iraq. Then, (I flew) to San Vito, Italy, in support of Bosnia for several 90-day rotations from 1996-1998. As a medical services technician (with) ASTS, we deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, for eight months in 2006 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (During that trip), we had the privilege of being part of the chain of care for Bob Woodruff (ABC News anchor), who was injured in an improvised explosive device attack. The most satisfying part of working in the Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility at Balad was that we treated and helped over 1,000 wounded warriors heal and get home safely to their families.

446th AW/PA: How does your civilian job tie into what you do for the 446th?

Hall: Part of the training for the medical technician (career field entails going) to various hospitals to obtain advanced medical skills and experience. Like many other members in our wing, (a portion of my training) was located at Madigan Army Medical Center (on Fort Lewis). When I completed my training in the emergency room at MAMC, they had position vacancies for ER technicians/certified nurse assistants. I applied for the job and since they had just finished training me for 90 days, it was a no brainer. I was hired in March of 2002.

446th AW/PA: What exactly does your Madigan position entail?

Hall: As an ER tech, I carry out all the written orders provided by the doctors with the exception of giving medications. So, we start IVs, draw lab (samples), splint, irrigate injuries, bandage and even suture/staple wounds. Many of us are trained as trauma team members. Our initial job is to obtain vital signs, check the patient's heart, obtain IV access and draw labs. That's just in the first two minutes! As the patient is stabilized we can perform other definitive care such as Foley catheters. Unfortunately, some patients don't make it and we have the grim task of performing post-mortem care, which is basically getting the patient into a body bag and filling out the toe tags.

446th AW/PA: Let's get personal for a bit. You traveled a lot with your military career. Where did you meet your wife, Tiffani?

Hall: My wife, Tiffani, stalked my (profile) on back in 2007, right after I returned from Iraq. I had put my profile on (the website) to find a girlfriend. We hit it off and dated for two years before deciding to buy a house together. We got married on July 4, 2010, right after I got commissioned.
446th AW/PA: Does your wife work?

Hall: Tiffani drives a car hauler and delivers new cars to dealerships around western Wash. and occasionally Oregon, California and Arizona.

446th AW/PA: How has Tiffani dealt with deployments?

Hall: I didn't meet her until after returning from Iraq, but she supports me in my military career and will stand by me if I get deployed in the future.

446th AW/PA: Do you two own animals?

Hall: I never really intended to have any pets. When I saw Barbie Q, my pot belly pig, when she was only seven days old, I couldn't resist! (Then, my wife) decided that Barbie needed a friend so she rescued another pot belly pig from Craigslist. Her name is Miss Piggy or Missy for short. (The two pigs) live happily in our half-acre yard. (My wife also) reached out to rat rescue shelters and we took in three brothers named Larry, Curly and Moe. So, right now we have two pigs, three rats and several fish.

446th AW/PA: What makes you like the unorthodox pet?

Hall: Growing up I have always had dogs and cats, so I'm not sure what happened. Seeing how cute Barbie was after she was born was probably the trigger. Plus, I had heard how smart (pot belly pigs) were, so I figured it would be fun to teach her tricks. She can do all the same tricks as a dog, but with a twist. When I say "ham," she sits, "bacon" is lay down, "grill" is spin in a circle, "sizzle" means shake my hand and her most recent trick is "baste" where she stands on her back legs and begs for food.

446th AW/PA: What else are you into besides bossing around swine?

Hall: I've been riding dirt bikes since high school, but I bought my first motorcycle in 1992. I put in my household goods and shipped to Okinawa, Japan, with me. It was my only transportation for about three years (rain or shine).

446th AW/PA: Has your career as a medic ever intertwined with your love for motorcycles? 

Hall: Yes. I was in a previous motorcycle club called the "Knight Riders," which has since been disbanded. The founder of the club Ms. Knight couldn't control the crazy riders and was afraid of liability. On a ride up Stevens Pass (in Skykomish, Wash.), there was a huge accident involving six motorcycles. Apparently, an inexperienced rider on the inside of a turn went wide pushing another rider into oncoming traffic. Both riders went down. One went under a pickup truck and the other into the guard rail. Another rider came around the corner, hit the oil slick and also went down, losing his finger. Two other riders collided into each other trying to avoid the whole mess and the last rider tipped his bike over trying to stop and assist the injured. I was ahead of this accident and had no idea it happened until someone came and got us. We raced back down to the scene to render aid. I saw the guy against the guard rail with several people standing round. I took charge and had people hold his neck and broken legs stable. When the ambulance arrived, I assisted the medics. Sadly, out in the boonies like that, there aren't many paramedics or advanced life support. They didn't have the advanced care this guy needed. I offered to start the IVs, but they didn't have anything except bandages and splints. This guy had both legs broken and one was nearly severed at the upper thigh, and I didn't think he would make it. We stopped his bleeding and splinted him as best we could until the Life Flight helicopter came to take him to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Luckily nobody died that day, but my patient did end up losing his leg. I like to think we saved his life up there on that mountain.

446th AW/PA: I heard the 446th has its own motorcycle club?

Since we stood up the "Wings on Wheels" motorcycle riders club in 2011, we have had five coordinated rides. It's kind of hard to get to ride together when most of our members are traditional Reservists and not (living in the local area). There is always the Washington weather that plays a factor, so I have attended at least two rides. Our club focuses on motorcycle safety, motorcycle awareness and, most of all, a good time with fellow riders. Since Senior Master Sgt. (Robert) Cutchin (446th ASTS) and I work together quite often, we have been known to take a short ride, grab a meal and then return after our lunch break.