EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
It’s hard to decide what to admire most about Curtis Raetz: the fact he flew some of the coolest U.S. Marine Corps helicopters ever or that, at the age of retirement, he went back to school to become a professional paramedic.
The truth is there’s a lot to admire about the Spicewood resident, who, at 65, is carving out a new career for himself with the Marble Falls Area EMS.
Raetz knew from an early age he wanted to fly. As a teen in Turkey, where his father was working as an oil executive, he envisioned a future in the air.
“I decided I wanted to fly when I was 16,” Raetz said. “I went to the University of Texas at Austin on an ROTC scholarship intending to get into pilot training.”
The route to military pilot is a tough one with a large applicant pool competing in a rigorous program. Raetz earned his pilot credentials in 1979 as a Marine. He was selected to fly the AH-1 Cobra, a close-ground support helicopter.
“And it was great,” Raetz said with a grin. “You know when they ask if you’d do it all again or what you’d change? I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d do that all over again.”
As a military helicopter pilot, Raetz developed a number of skills that help him now as a paramedic. One is the ability to compartmentalize so he can focus on the task at hand.
“When you’re flying, you’re thinking about what’s happening three to five miles ahead of you,” Raetz said. “I learned how to put the other things in compartments in my brain.”
As a paramedic, Raetz often comes across tough scenes. When he does, he takes a clinical view of the situation and focuses on caring for the patient. He then tucks that away and moves on to the next task, fully focused on immediate needs.
“I think a lot of (first responders) do that,” he said.
Raetz spent six years as an active-duty Marine flying the Cobra before transitioning to the Marine reserves, where he switched to the CH-53 Sea Stallion, an assault support helicopter. It was bigger, and maybe not as nimble as the Cobra, but Raetz enjoyed it just as much.
He spent the next 24 years as a member of the reserves while also working in the corporate world. During his active duty and reserve careers, Raetz logged more than 2,500 hours in the cockpit before retiring as a colonel.
His civilian career was almost as exciting and interesting as his military service. He spent 15 years before retiring as an information technology project manager with Raytheon Company, leading teams that designed and installed large-scale systems. His last assignment was in United Arab Emirates before he officially retired in 2015.
Raetz and his wife of 41 years, Lou Ann, moved to Spicewood in February 2016, but it didn’t take long for him to pick up the service bug again, this time as a volunteer firefighter with the Spicewood Volunteer Fire Department and EMS.
“Going back to being a Marine, I’ve always wanted to serve,” Raetz said. “And (the Spicewood VFD-EMS) is just a great organization.”
Raetz also became an EMT-Basic. During that time, he witnessed Marble Falls Area EMS crews at work. It intrigued him to the point that he joined the Marble Falls department as an EMT-Basic and then went back to school to become a certified paramedic.
“There’s a lot to learn,” Raetz said about studying to become a paramedic.
He had to master the equipment on an ambulance and how to administer medications. He also had to do clinical rotations at hospitals and mental health facilities, with EMS units, and in other operations associated with emergency medicine — all at the youthful age of 64.
But Raetz transcends a numerical age. Whether it’s the joy he found flying helicopters, the challenges of leading IT teams overseas, or the satisfaction of helping someone in a medical emergency, this Marine Corps veteran seems to have discovered the once mythical fountain of youth.
“I just love what I do. I enjoy the people and the camaraderie,” he said. “I think as long as I can help, as long as I can serve in some way, I will.”