TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — After 46 years and four days in uniform, Army Col. Warner "Rocky" Farr is calling it a career.
Farr will retire Thursday during a ceremony at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base, where he's served as commnd surgeon of the U.S. Special Operations Command Central since 2009.
"I worked very hard to come up with a career progression path for special operations doctors," Farr told The Tampa Tribune (http://bit.ly/12mgCm1). "Now it is time for me to get out of the way."
Farr was 18 and attending Northeast Louisiana University in the spring of 1967 when he decided to enlist in the Army rather than being drafted after graduating from college.
He became a Green Beret and started paratrooper school in Fort Benning, Ga., in October 1967, just as the filming of "The Green Berets" starring John Wayne was wrapping up. Farr says he later served with some soldiers who acted in the movie.
His first combat experience came with the Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group, which was a partnership between the Special Forces and the CIA. Farr's assignment was conducting reconnaissance on the Ho Chi Mihn Trail, where his group was tasked with stopping the flow of supplies, capturing the enemy and trying to rescue Americans who had been taken captive.
"I was a combat medic. In Special Forces, we don't put a Red Cross on our helmet. We shoot," he told the Tribune.
The lessons learned there stayed with him.
Back home in the late 1970s, Farr taught a course for medics and rapidly moved through the ranks.
He graduated from college, and was accepted into the Uniformed Services University. In 1997, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant and earned a medical degree in 1983. He then became board certified in aerospace medicine and anatomic and clinical pathology.
Farr also learned to fly. He became a major in 1987, lieutenant colonel in 1993 and colonel in 1999.
As command surgeon, he was finally able to apply lessons learned in Vietnam. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment was creating a medical kit for troops that included a tourniquet, hemostatic dressing, antibiotics and pain pills and a needle for sucking chest wounds.
"The key is that every single person has it," he told the Tribune. "Your buddy is saving you.
After retiring, Farr says he and his wife, Kathleen Dunn Farr, plan to stay in Tampa.