JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Sometimes what's calm on the surface disguises an intensity that lies underneath, and at any moment that intensity can spring forth.
The daily life for Soldiers with Task Force 38's medevac unit, Company C, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment is much the same.
Calm on the surface
One of the missions the unit conducted was routine flights called contingency aeromedical staging facility flights.
"CASF missions, most of the time, are not urgent; they are routine in nature," said Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Casha, Taulatin, Ore., a flight medic and platoon sergeant with Company C.
Those routine missions pick up patients, medical supplies, doctors and nurses from outlying bases and bring them here. According to medevac Soldiers, the patients coming here typically need additional medical care, and it's Air Force medical personnel who determine if they do or if further treatment is required.
"Basically it's an Air Force mission, and they stage patients here for the next higher echelon of care," said Casha. "That care could be an MRI, surgery, or any procedures they can't handle here."
Higher echelon care centers are located at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and in some cases U.S. hospitals.
The CASF mission was also something specific to Joint Base Balad.
"It's unique to Balad, that's why we're going out to pick them [patients] up and bring them here," said Chief Warrant Officer Rod Comstock, Salem, Ore., and a standardization instructor pilot with the unit. "The other places don't have a CASF mission."
Since CASF flights are scheduled, pilots and crewmembers can better prepare for them.
"With CASF missions we have much more time for detailed flight planning," said Comstock.
Fellow Company C Soldier and UH-60 Black Hawk pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Joe Zeiner, agreed.
"We know what to expect and have more time to plan for it," said Zeiner.
And while the CASF flights can be well thought out and well planned, the other mission, medevac flights, cannot.
Intensity springs forth
What was scheduled to be a normal, routine CASF flight Thursday night in an instant was not.
"Medevac, medevac, medevac," came across the hand-held radios, and a quiet barbecue dinner celebrating Veterans Day, a day late, with pork ribs, pork and beans, macaroni salad, and fellowship with other Soldiers, suddenly turned serious and bustling as crewmembers ran toward the flight line.
"Can you take care of this?" Casha asked one of his fellow Soldiers as he motioned to his plate of half eaten food.
No longer were the crews leisurely readying themselves for a CASF flight, now it was time to go, even if dinner wasn't finished.
"The real difference between the two [missions] is one [CASF] we have time to plan, and with the other, medevac missions, we don't know where we're going to go," said Zeiner.
Yet within minutes the pilots were in the cockpits, knew where they were they going and knew their mission - to deliver blood to another base. The medevac Soldiers learned where they were going, and they also learned to prepare for the spontaneity of their mission.
"You have to keep yourself physically and mentally ready all the time," Zeiner said.
One of his fellow Soldiers agreed.
"I never know what to expect. You never know when the mission is going to come down. It keeps things interesting," said Sgt. Zach Holden, Portland, Ore., a Company C crew chief. "You expect to expect the unexpected."
To make sure the crewmembers have everything thing needed for a flight mission, and at a moment's notice, also took a seemingly incongruous technique.
"I hurry with a purpose; I slow down to make sure I don't miss anything," said Holden.
Yet the pilots and crew didn't dawdle Thursday. The Army standard is that for within 15 minutes of receiving a medevac call, the helicopters must be airborne.
Whether a calm CASF flight or an intense medevac flight, the Company C Soldiers were all about transporting troops and medical supplies.
"We jump in the helicopter and go get people; that's what we do," said Zeiner.