Air Ambulance unit has rescue success

By Sgt. Ann Venturato
13th Corps Support Command Public Affairs Office

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — Two hundred and forty seconds can make a difference between life and death.

The unit's mission: to expediently clear all wounded from the battlefield; the 82nd Medical Company (Air Ambulance) has done that at least 600 times since reaching theater.

Their quickest response time for aeromedical evacuation is around four minutes from notification to lift off.

"There are three crews on duty here at all times," said Capt. Charles Cook, operations officer. "Each crew consists of two pilots, a crew chief and a flight medic."

As the 82nd Med. Co. receives a MEDEVAC request, the pilot and crew chief prepare the UH-60 Black Hawk while the co-pilot and the flight medic acquire the location and information.

It's this type of teamwork to get off the ground and execute the mission that makes for a quick response time.

"We answer the call wherever they need us," Cook said. "You never know what you are going to find out there."

Besides having transported more than 2,800 patients, with MEDEVAC crews in Baquba, Camp Caldwell and Al Kut, the air ambulance company covers all of southern Iraq from Talil to Tikrit.

The air ambulance crews use the 6-digit grid location, provided in their information packet, to locate the pickup site that is not always secured upon their arrival.

"We do a lot of point-of-entry pick ups like any normal MEDEVAC unit. [These are] mostly from improvised explosive devices," Cook said.

The birds can set down between power lines or on the same roads where the IED's exploded.

In flight, the medics are prepared to control an injured Soldier's bleeding or simply comfort the service member until the aircraft reaches the hospital.

With 15 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to support MEDEVAC missions in the 82nd Med. Co.'s area of operations, the Soldiers transport medical supplies and more.

"We also do all the patient transfers from LSA Anaconda to the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad," Cook said.

As heroic as it all seems, dealing with the trauma can be extremely stressful for the MEDEVAC crews.

"It does take a toll on the Soldiers," said Sgt. 1st Class David Dennis, flight platoon sergeant.

The crews conduct a debriefing after each mission to make sure everyone is doing all right, physically as well as mentally. Crew members said that any information that travels back to them concerning one of their MEDEVAC patients helps reduce their stress knowing that person is alive and recovering from their injuries.

Being able to save someone's life is what the 82nd Med. Co. mission is all about. For many of the Soldiers with the air ambulance unit from Fort Riley, Kan., the mission here is nothing new. About 80 percent of the company served in Operation Iraqi Freedom I.

Capt. Steven Murty, flight platoon leader, had what was probably the most profound thought of the day; if the unit was not called to fly another day, not one more hour, the MEDEVAC crews would be delighted because that would mean their crucial services were no longer required to save a life.

Editor's Note: Sgt. Venturato is a member of the 13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office at LSA Anaconda, Balad, Iraq.


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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Sgt. Thomas Tanoah, a crew chief with 82nd air ambulance company, does a pre-flight check on medivac helicopter Aug. 29.

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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - MEDEVAC helicopters are in the air in under 10 minutes to go save lives.