Final flight in a storied career for a Washington National Guardsman

Chief Warrant Officer five Noel Larson addresses the crowd in front of a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter following his final flight on January 30, 2020 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Larson is retiring after 32 years of service in the Washington National Guard. (U.S. National Guard photo by Joseph Siemandel)
February 02, 2020

After more than 30 years in the cockpit of a Washington Army National Guard helicopter, Chief Warrant Officer Five Noel Larson finds himself in a position he isn’t used to.

“I wish that I could say I had some grand scheme about getting here in this position but I can’t take credit for that at all,” said Larson.

On January 30, 2020, Larson flew his final flight with an organization he has been a part of since 1988.

Larson joined the Guard in 1988 and after a few years of working in the Army Aviation Sustainment Facility he decided that he wanted to be a pilot and graduated from flight school in 1995. During his 32 years he logged more than 8,000 hours of flight time, deployed to the Middle East multiple times, was a consent at helo bases across Washington during multiple wild fires seasons, supported flood operations, search and recovery operations following the State Route 530 Landslide and deployed to Louisiana after the destruction of Hurricanes Katrina/Rita.

It was a night mission on March 25, 2008, while deployed to an undisclosed location that earned Larson the Distinguished Flying Cross and recognition from his peers in the aviation community.

“I wouldn’t trade anything, the good or the bad, or any of it,” said Larson. “Flying a Blackhawk comes with all that camaraderie, you get to know each other.”

Besides missing the helicopter, Larson also said he would miss his colleagues at the facility more.

“I have been in here since ’92, and just being able to come in and walk the hanger floor and have everybody say ‘hey’ and ‘how’s it going,’” said Larson. “Being able to recognize everybody, that’s the stuff that really means more to me.”

His final flight was made even more special because he had the chance to fly with his brother, Chief Warrant Officer Four, Justin Larson, whom he has flown with for 20 years. As the Larsons approached the flight facility they were met with cheers from fellow Guardsmen, family and friends along with two fire trucks providing a water salute, a ceremonial tradition that marks the retirement of a senior pilot.

“There is a reason that the guard outshines active duty nine times out of ten, and that is you guys, the hard work you all do,” said Larson. “Keep it up and thank you for everything.”