MEDEVAC Battalion Honored

Story by Pfc. Crystal D. Eldridge
13th COSCOM Public Affairs Office

The 36th Medical Evacuation Battalion, of the 1st Medical Brigade, 13th Corps Support Command, was awarded the prestigious Lt. Gen. Ellis D. Parker Combat Service Support Aviation Battalion of the Year Award January 31 during a ceremony held at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

The battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Robert D. Mitchell, and the command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Brian A. Fahl, accepted the award on behalf of the 36th from Brig. Gen. E. J. Sinclair, commanding general of U. S. Army Aviation Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama, and retired Lt. Gen. Ellis D. Parker.

Soldiers of the 36th recently returned from deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During this deployment, the 36th was responsible for 60 UH-60 Blackhawk aircraft which flew single-ship missions spanning the entire Iraqi theater.

On the ground, 72 ambulances faced the dangers of ambush and improvised explosive devices.

Over the course of the battalion's year-long deployment, the 36th's Soldiers saved nearly 39,000 lives of U.S., Iraqi and coalition forces. The battalion's 1,000 Soldiers ran nearly 22,000 successful evacuation missions and put in 15,000 flight hours and traveled 270,000 miles over land.

The reason for the unit's success, said the commander and command sergeant major, was the Soldiers of the 36th. These Soldiers had enough experience and were the best led, best trained and best prepared Soldiers to go to Iraq and conduct their missions anytime, anywhere, Mitchell and Fahl explained.

"They love it and they did a great job over there," the lieutenant colonel said of the Soldiers under his command. "I had great commanders and Soldiers executing to standard."

The Soldiers of the 36th have now earned the unit the prestigious Parker Award - and it will likely be the last time a medical evacuation battalion will have the opportunity to achieve this honor.

The Army is undergoing transformations and the 36th was the last medical evacuation battalion to execute this mission. The battalion has now transformed into a multifunctional medical battalion as aerial MEDEVAC units were shifted to the Combat Aviation Brigades as part of Army Transformation.

The colonel and command sergeant major traveled to Fort Rucker, Alabama, January 31, to accept this award from Parker himself.

Lt. Gen. Ellis D. Parker was instrumental in consolidating and modernizing Army aviation and helped form the Army Aviation Branch. He became the first commanding general of the Branch and served as the branch chief and as the aviation school's commandant for five and a half years. He also served as the United States Forces Korea and United Nations Command Aviation Officer and Commander, 17th Aviation Group, U. S. Army Korea.

Parker retired in 1992, inspiring Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan to direct the creation of the Parker Aviation Award to recognize Parker's accomplishments in developing the Aviation Branch.

The award is now in place to recognize the achievements of the Army's top aviation battalions in four areas - leadership, safety, training and maintenance.

To earn this award, aviation units throughout the Army - to include active and reserve components as well as the National Guard - compete in the categories of combat, combat support, combat service support and table of distribution and allowance. In the first phase of the competition, battalions are nominated by their brigade commanders based on battalion evaluation packets which are submitted by each unit in October.

Brigade commanders then choose a battalion for each category and send their decisions to the first general officer in their chain of command. At that point, the general officer forwards the names of the best battalions in each category to their major commands.

The major command then selects a representative from each of the four categories. The command sends the representatives' information to the Department of the Army Evaluation Board.

In the second phase of the competition, the Dept. of the Army evaluation board selects the best battalion in each category. The board then selects the best overall battalion as the competition's award-winning battalion.

 

571st Air Ambulance Company
A Blackhawk helicopter assigned to the 571st Air Ambulance Company, 36th Medical Evacuation Battalion is escorted by a Marine Supercobra during operations in Iraq. The 36th MEDEVAC was recently named the Lt. Gen Ellis D. Parker Combat Service Support Aviation Battalion of the Year in a ceremony at Fort Rucker.

36th Medical Evacuation Battalion
A Blackhawk helicopter assigned to the 36th Medical Evacuation Battalion evacuates wounded during operations in Iraq. The 36th MEDEVAC was recently named the Lt. Gen Ellis D. Parker Combat Service Support Aviation Battalion of the Year in a ceremony at Fort Rucker.