Today we hear the combat story of Yonel “Yogi” Dorelis, a retired and long-time helicopter pilot who served in the Marine Corps, Navy, Army, and Air Force.
While in uniform, Yogi flew a variety of aircraft and mission profiles, but spent a considerable amount of time flying Combat Search and Rescue for the Air Force in the HH-60, including early in the war in Afghanistan. In fact, during this time, Yogi earned a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) with V Device for his life saving efforts in Operation Anaconda, a mission that’s near and dear to my heart because I later went on to serve with several of the Apache pilots who were there at the time.
Beyond earning the coveted DFC, Yogi also accumulated 5,500 hours of flight time, approximately 500 of that in combat. He’s credited with saving 70+ military lives and approximately 300 more in his civilian flight career as part of an EMS crew, which he does to this day.
It was a blast to sit down with another aviator and a CSAR one at that, where it remains clear that no matter what airframe you flew, all pilots experience similar mishaps, near death experiences, laughs, and red tape along the way. I hope you enjoy this Combat Story as much as I did.
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Find Yogi Online:
IMDB - https://www.imdb.com/name/nm6260186/
Instagram - @yogifly60_ydorelis https://www.instagram.com/yogifly60_ydorelis/
LinkedIN - https://www.linkedin.com/in/yonel-dorelis-93982919/
Acronyms and Terms used in the show:
CSAR - Combat Search and Rescue.
Dustoff - Another name used for Army Medical Evacuation or MEDEVAC aircraft.
ETL - Effective Translational Lift. This is the point at which an aircraft basically takes flight.
FLIR - Forward Looking Infrared. One method of seeing in the dark that uses differences in the temperature of objects as opposed to amplifying ambient light (which is what Night Vision Googles do).
Autorotation - A fun and scary flight profile that’s practiced regularly by all pilots by which you either simulate or truly kill engine power and, which descending out of the sky, maintain a minimal amount of drag to slow your descent created by the main rotor blade and then, when very close to touching the ground, pull in a bit of collective to provide a slightly softer landing.
Mustang - A term to reference an officer who was enlisted before becoming an officer.
0:00 – Intro
4:05 – “I knew from an early age, I wanted to be a pilot and a military pilot.”
36:29 – Hovering and possible advantages as a fixed wing pilot
44:06 – Being stationed in the Philippines and trying to land on a ship at sea
1:21:24 – Operation Anaconda
1:36:57 – The importance of leadership
1:40:30 – Would you go back and do it all that again?
1:41:03 – “I missed the people, the mission, and that sense of doing something that means something.”