SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. -- When people began telling Col. Donald Majercik, a flight surgeon here at the Vermont Air National Guard, that he was 20 hours short of 1,000 flight hours, he didn't think too much about it.
As time marched closer to his February 2013 retirement, however, Majercik began to view the 1,000 hours as a goal.
"I wanted to do something special before I left the Guard," he said.
True to his word, Majercik hit the 1,000-hour milestone on Nov. 29, 2012. Returning from the blue skies with his long-time flying partner and friend, Lt. Col. Terry Moultroup, the flight surgeon met both his goal and an unexpected group of admirers.
While he had been in the air, a team member on the ground had gathered a group of friends, coworkers and current and former leaders of the 158th Fighter Wing. They all came to witness the auspicious moment of his return. Most importantly, Majercik's wife was standing in front of the crowd waving an American flag.
While Majercik said he was surprised by the welcome back, at the same time he was filled with a sense of accomplishment in the belief that he is the first flight surgeon to have completed 1,000 hours in an F-16 Fighting Falcon. It takes dedication to put that much time into flying, he said.
"The 1,000 hours of flying time represents only a small fraction of the time that it takes to reach that goal," Majercik said. "Each hour of flying requires four to five hours of additional time and effort in order to accomplish that flight."
Flight surgeons are required to log flight hours as part of their aerospace medicine practice. Most, however, do not amass the overwhelming number of hours that Majercik has under his military belt, especially in an F-16. While flight surgeons do not have to be pilots, Majercik is an avid pilot even in his civilian life, so he often took the opportunity to fly the F-16, not just ride in it.
"We've been flying together for a long time," Moultroup said of Majercik. "I've been here since the early 1980s when we flew the F-4 (Phantom II), and I remember when he was the only flight surgeon the base had. He carried that responsibility all by himself for a long time."
Majercik joined the Vermont Air National Guard when he was an intern in surgery and the Vietnam War was in full swing. He knew it was likely he would be asked to serve in the military in one way or another, and was introduced to the National Guard by somebody who was serving in the Vermont Army National Guard at the time.
For Majercik, the Vermont Air National Guard has given him an amazing legacy. And now he's given the VTANG a legacy as well.
"This achievement is important to the 158th Fighter Wing, because it represents a milestone not reached by any other unit," he said. "Over the years, the base has set the benchmark for excellence in all of its endeavors. Its performance in inspections, in theater, and at home has been nothing short of outstanding. Throughout my career I have been privileged to be a part of this."
As his service in the military comes to a close, Majercik said he feels like he can leave knowing he's accomplished something few ever will.
But it isn't without sadness that he says goodbye to his brothers and sisters-in-arms.
"The best thing about being a flight surgeon here for more than 40 years is all the wonderful people I've had the opportunity to know," Majercik said. "The second best thing is flying the F-16s. The future is bright for the 158th (FW), and as time goes on, I hope to maintain close contact with all of those that are making it so strong. It has and always will be a significant part of my life."