Hometown Heroes: Iain Hamilton of Bow is a pilot with a mission

  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Iain Hamilton is welcomed home on Oct. 24 by his wife Darcy and their daughters Raegan and Caleigh after returning from a military tour in Iraq. When he’s not overseas, Hamilton is often flying rescue missions into the White Mountains with the National Guard. Courtesy

  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Iain Hamilton comes from a family history of service. Courtesy

  • Chief Warrant Officer 3 Iain Hamilton poses in front of a helicopter. After hearing stories from his grandfather, father and two uncles about the joys of flying, Hamilton dreams of being a pilot. He made those dreams come true in the New Hampshire National Guard be becoming a helicopter pilot. Hamilton, who lives in Bow with is wife and two daughters, has done four tours of duty in the Middle East and when he’s not overseas, he is often flying rescue missions into the White Mountains with the New Hampshire National Guard. Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 12/17/2020 8:55:12 AM
Modified: 12/17/2020 8:55:02 AM

Growing up in Andover, Mass., Iain Hamilton dreamed of flying. That’s what happens when you hear tales about the wonders of aviation from a grandfather who flew Corsairs for the U.S. Navy in World War II, an uncle who flew Huey helicopters in the Vietnam War and a father and another uncle who have their civilian pilot licenses.

“They liked to talk about how much fun their careers were and my grandfather liked to say all the time that if you find a job you love, you’ll never work in a day in your life,” said Hamilton, who now lives in Bow with his wife, Darcy, and two their two young daughters, Raegan and Caleigh.

Hamilton followed in all those flying family footsteps and now has a job he loves – piloting helicopters for the New Hampshire National Guard as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 for Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment. Hamilton has done four tours in the Middle East and just returned from his most recent trip to Iraq in October. When he’s not overseas, Hamilton is on call as part of the National Guard’s aviation rescue team, which is often called into the White Mountains to save injured or lost hikers. Add it all up, and you get someone who is certainly worthy of being called a Hometown Hero, especially in the era of COVID, where the National Guard has stepped up in often unexpected ways.

“He is constantly putting others first to ensure their safety,” Darcy Hamilton said of her husband.

Iain’s first rescue experiences also came in New Hampshire when he was working on the ski patrol at Gunstock Mountain in Gilford. The Hamiltons live in Massachusetts, but they had a cottage in Gilmanton and would spend every summer and every non-summer weekend in the Granite State. Like he later did with flying, Iain followed his father, Douglas Hamilton, onto the Gunstock ski patrol – Douglas did it for 43 years and Iain for 18 years. Now, when Iain has an injured person in the back of his helicopter, “I feel like I have a little more understanding of what’s going on back there because I was an EMT for a while and I can just appreciate that golden hour a little bit more since I’ve had patients under my direct care for a time.”

One of the most dangerous rescue missions Hamilton has flown for the National Guard was featured on the television show North Woods Law (season 15, episode 3) on Animal Planet. Hamilton had to keep his helicopter steady next to a Cannon Mountain cliff face as the team’s medic, Joel Coehlo, was lowered down to the injured hiker by cable.

“That pick on Cannon was probably one of the more technical rescues I’ve had to do just because you’re right there at the cliff and there’s a real small area that we had to lower our behemoth of a medic down on to,” Hamilton said, getting in a good-natured dig at his buddy Coehlo before singing his praises. “But we actually lucked out that day because our medic has a real background in mountain rescues anyway, so when he went down there it really helped us because he was very familiar locking in with what the mountain guys had already set up.”

When he’s not in the air, Hamilton runs the life support program for the N.H. Guard, which means he takes care of all the helmets, vests, first-aid kits, etc. for the aircrafts. He’s also a tactical operations officer, so he makes sure all of the hardware and software on the helicopters are up to date and running smoothly. And when all that is done, Hamilton might play a tune or two on his fiddle. Like flying, Scottish music and dancing is a Hamilton family tradition.

“My grandparents always say how happy it makes them to have a family that plays music,” Iain said. “We haven’t gotten together for a while, so we’re due for a family gathering with some music.”

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