Presentation Date: March 23, 2017
Chester L. Ward, Brigadier General, Medical Corps, US Army (Retired)
Note: General Ward previously addressed our 23 October 2016 dinner meeting. This month’s presentation will supplement where he left off about some of his military career experiences plus wherever some of the questions and/or comments may take us. Because our group is aviation oriented, he plans to focus on a few of his aviation related memories / stories. If the group wishes, he can / will focus even more on White House related reminisces. It is impossible to put all of his recollections into an hour (or less).
Chet was born in Woodland, CA in 1932. He had two sisters; one is still living. His father was the agriculture teacher in College City before the new (1937) high school was built in Arbuckle. Chet attended high school in Van Nuys, CA where he participated in JR. ROTC.
At UC Santa Barbara, he participated in ROTC and graduated in January 1955 as a Pre-Med and Zoology major and a Distinguished Military Graduate. He was commissioned as an Army Reserve 2nd Lt. in 1954. After Officer Infantry Basic Training at Fort Benning, GA, he earned his Jump Wings, Jump Master training, and Ranger Tab.
Chet served in Puerto Rico and Panama as an Infantry Officer before opting to resign his Regular Army Commission after serving his three-year obligatory contract. After the Korean War ended, there was a Reduction In Force (RIF). US Military Academy (West Point) graduates had a date of rank making them senior to Chet and they were given preference in remaining on active duty.
Then-Lt. Ward was required to revert to his Army Reserve commission and served in the reserves with the 349th General Hospital in the Los Angeles Area after commencing Medical School at USC in 1958. He paid for the first three years and finally learned about an Army scholarship in his last year before graduating in 1962. In 1960, he married Sally McCloud and they became parents.
Rather than continue with his medical education (residency) Capt. Ward served with the 5th Special Forces from July 1963 thru December 1964. This included a 6-month deployment in the area south of Saigon (IV CTZ) as the Special Forces Surgeon.
After Chet returned to the States, he attended the US Navy's six-month Flight Surgeon Course in Pensacola where he learned to fly T-34s. Graduating with Class 109 in June 1965, he then took a two-month leave of absence to cover his uncle's medical practice in Paso Robles (the sole practitioner had not taken a vacation in five years).
He then attended UC Berkeley for a year and earned a Masters degree in Public Health, followed by an additional year with the US Air Force's Medical Advanced Course at Brooks AFB.
After one year at Fort Rucker (the home of Army Aviation), Chet volunteered for Vietnam where he initially served with the 17th Aviation Group in II Corps. In 1968, he was chosen to be the 1st Aviation Brigade's Flight Surgeon as well as the Aviation Medical Consultant to United States Army in Vietnam (USARV).
When he returned to the States, he attended the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS. Subsequently, he was assigned as the Army's Flight Surgeon in the Office of the Surgeon General in the Forrestal Building in Washington DC. (President Carter kicked the military out of that building).
After being vetted with three other Army physicians recommended for assignment to the White House, Colonel Ward served on the personal staff of Presidents Nixon and Ford as a White House Physician from 1971 through 1976.
His subsequent assignments included:
-- Director of Environmental Quality Research
-- Alcohol & Drug Abuse Consultant to the Army Surgeon General
-- Industrial College of The Armed Forces (ICAF)
-- Chief, Army Medical Corps Assignments
Later, Chet also commanded:
-- Medical Activities at Fort Bragg, NC.
-- Womack Army Community Hospital while concurrently serving as Surgeon, XVIII Airborne Corps.
-- Beaumont Army Medical Center at Fort Bliss, El Paso, TX from which he retired.
After becoming Executive Director of Continuing Medical Education at LA County Medical Center and Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine at the USC School of Medicine, he escaped the commutes and congestion of Los Angeles to become Butte County’s Health Officer and Director of Public Health from July 1985 to August 1995.
Dr. / General Ward and his wife Sally live in the South Bay. They have two daughters and two grandchildren.