Oregon Guard Soldiers provide theater-wide medical evacuations

Story and photos by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Every day in Iraq, medical evacuations help save the lives of injured service members and civilians who would die without immediate care.

The Oregon National Guard Soldiers with C Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, stationed at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, cannot afford to take days off because lives are on the line. They perform theater-wide medical evacuations and transport missions constantly.

“”We’re always on call, on alert,” said Maj. Geoffrey Vallee, a UH-60 Black Hawk pilot and commander of C Co. and a Salem, Ore., native. “This mission is very reactionary.”

Vallee said the crews always have their helicopters and medical equipment ready, so when a mission comes along the only variables are location and level of urgency.

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Casha, C Co.’s first platoon sergeant and a flight medic, said the operational tempo is not at a constant high – crews often wait all day for mission calls that never come. Not having a mission means Soldiers are not hurt, and that is good, said Casha, a Tualatin, Ore., native.

“You hope to sit around all day,” he said, “but you also want to do your job.”

When a nine-line medevac request is called in, the crew on rotation springs into action. An urgent call requires the helicopter to be off the ground within 15 minutes, Casha said.

“It’s a pretty challenging thing,” he said, “but everybody does their job as part of a team and we get off the ground pretty quickly.”

Each Black Hawk team is composed of two pilots, one medic and one crew chief. The medic provides en route care for the patient and, when necessary, is assisted by the crew chief.

“My first priority is the security of the helicopter and all the people in it, but I also provide assistance to the medic,” said Sgt. Tracy Braeme, a crew chief with C Co. and a Sublimity, Ore., native.

The Soldiers of C Co. said the mission, while challenging, can be very rewarding.

“I can’t imagine doing anything else,” said Casha, who works as a paramedic in Oregon.

Vallee said it is being able to do good things not only for American Soldiers, but for the Iraqi people that he finds most gratifying.

“It’s an easy mission to be proud of,” said Vallee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

news photo
Oregon National Guard Soldiers with C Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, conduct preflight checks before a medical evacuation mission Oct. 8 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg)

news photo
Sgt. Tracy Braeme, a UH-60 Blackhawk crew chief with C Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment and a Sublimity, Ore., native, gears up for a medical evacuation mission Oct. 8 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg)

news photo
Sgt. Tracy Braeme, a UH-60 Blackhawk crew chief with C Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment and a Sublimity, Ore., native, prepares her crew's helicopter for a medical evacuation mission Oct. 8 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg)