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Thread: Salute to a Hero
04-21-08, 02:14 PM #1
Salute to a Hero
A very nice feature on a retiring LT from ASTREA
In the air and on the ground, Bob Curry had a successful career with the Sheriff's Department
April 20, 2008
Just before his San Diego County Sheriff Department's patrol helicopter crashed, Lt. Bob Curry thought he was going to die.
That was in 1989 – his 13th year on the force – on Jan. 16, at 10 a.m. He walked away from the burning wreckage at Gillespie Field with just some broken teeth and a few cuts and bruises.
A couple of weeks later, he was co-piloting another sheriff's helicopter that was nearly blown to the ground by high Santa Ana winds. In the heat of it all, he wondered: “What am I doing back in (one of these) contraptions?”
Then three years later, as he and a co-pilot prepared to make a belly landing in a sheriff's patrol plane, Curry thought: “Don't tell me (I'm going to crash) again.”
Although the belly flop was flawless, you might have thought the former military brat, who grew up mainly in Del Mar, was ready to give up flying – at least on the job.
Not a chance.
By the time he and co-pilot Apolinar Echevarria pulled off that successful crash landing at Miramar Naval Air Station in 1992, Curry still had more than half his 32-year sheriff's career to go. And most of it would be as head of the department's ASTREA division (Aerial Support to Regional Enforcement Agencies).
“Once you get (the flying) bug, that's all you want to do,” he says. “It doesn't matter what you're in, you just want to fly it. The first time I went up, I just felt free. It (was) just amazing.”
Curry, 59, who officially retired from the sheriff's department last month, was 8 when a friend of his dad, a former Air Force pilot, took him up in a little Cesna 185. He started flying lessons at 14.
But don't take the wrong slant on the former long-haired child of the hippie generation.
Most folks who knew him then looked askance when he first declared in the early 1970s that he was going into law enforcement. But he knew that was his calling.
So even if Curry hadn't been flying with ASTREA, where he would log 2,300 hours as a helicopter pilot, he still would have been fighting crime with the sheriff's department.
As much as flying, Bob Curry, the twice-married father of two, loved being a cop.
In a melded family when he was a kid, he was the oldest of five siblings, and his stepmother, Gloria Curry, was Del Mar's city manager.
Until he was drafted into the Army in 1970, Bob says, “I was pretty much all over the place – not directed – when I was young. But (those) 18 months I spent in the service taught me a lot more discipline.”
When he got out, he began palling around with his first wife's brother, who happened to be a sheriff's deputy, playing drums in a sheriff's department band.
Curry eventually found himself part of the musical group and becoming more and more attracted to police work. He became a sheriff's reserve officer in 1974 and a regular deputy two years later.
“I worked in a (number) of different assignments – detectives, the jail, SWAT, ASTREA and I liked them all,” he says. “But (next to) ASTREA, I loved working on SWAT most. I was on the sniper team for four years. I liked the independence and being called in to handle the jobs that no one else would take.”
But Curry was in heaven being an airborne sheriff's agent. It was, for him, the best of both worlds.
“I first heard about ASTREA when I was in the (police) academy, and I immediately said to myself, 'Hey, this is great. I can be a flier and a (law enforcer), too.”
He also tells you, without hesitation, that his legacy with the department is what he did in ASTREA. Specifically, as leader of the squad, he helped design and establish the sheriff's $4 million emergency services operations center in El Cajon six years ago.
It allows all the sheriff's specialized response teams, including ASTREA, to be located under one roof.
Curry also fought the tough fights, especially in tight economic times, to pull the money needed from the county budget to keep his division flying every year of his 10-year command.
ASTREA got three new helicopters between 2000 and 2003 primarily through Curry's efforts. And after that, he led study and design of the department's fire rescue program.
By the time he called it a career, Curry had a team of 14 deputies and two sergeants, with a fleet of nine helicopters. His annual budget was nearly $3 million.
Try getting that amount of money out of the county, he says – no mean feat.
By far “the toughest job was keeping the ASTREA program running and financed through the county bureaucracy,” Curry declares.
The paperwork, alone, he says, was often a Catch-22 nightmare: You can have this if you get that; but you can't get that unless you have this.
Somehow, though, Curry always found ways to make things work out.
And he points to the operation center's construction as his crowning effort, largely because of what it's meant to the entire emergency services division.
Says Undersheriff Bill Gore: Curry's leaving “is a big loss for us. He was a real asset. His leadership, style and ability went a long way to making ASTREA one of the finest units (of its kind) in the nation.”
Adds Kevin Randall, a pilot who served under Curry for 10 years: “He was a great boss.”
Now in retirement, Curry plans to do a lot of traveling with his second wife, Robin, a retired school teacher. High on their agenda is a trip to Ireland for a visit with relatives on Curry's Irish side of the family.
He also expects to get into some part-time work that will keep him close to helicopters and airplanes.
But even though he says he knows it was “time to leave (the ASTREA assignment) to someone else to carry on,” he'll miss going into the air for the department.
That's “the hardest thing about leaving.”Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.
Do not puff, shade, skew, tailor, firm up, stretch, massage,
or otherwise distort statements of fact.FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley
04-21-08, 06:51 PM #2
Nice post. Congratulations to Lt. Curry for attaining a successful retirement. May he enjoy an equally long and fruitful life in relative obscurity away from the masses and stresses of the job!Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.
[George Washington (1732 - 1799)]
04-22-08, 10:12 AM #3
Retirement. The only thing about this job that bothers me.Do not war for peace. If you must war, war for justice. For without justice there is no peace. -me
We are who we choose to be.
R.I.P. Arielle. 08/20/2010-09/16/2012
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