News: 40th CAB MEDEVAC crew treats soldiers like family
Story by Spc. Darriel Swatts
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – “MEDEVAC, MEDEVAC, MEDEVAC!”
It’s a cry for medical assistance that is enough to make even the most combat-hardened soldiers cringe when they hear it cross the radio waves. For the soldiers of Charlie Company, 3rd Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment (Air Ambulance), Army National Guard, the call starts a race to respond in 15 minutes or less.
Charlie Company, based out of both Westfield, Mass. and Burlington, Vt., is currently attached to the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, which is deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. The company has a big role to play in Iraq, providing medical evacuation (medevac) services to all troops on the ground. For medical emergencies, its aircraft must be in the air and on the way within 15 minutes.
“Even though the Army standard for being ‘wheels up’ is 15 minutes for a medical emergency,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Flach, 4th Platoon, Charlie Company, 3-126th Aviation, “we beat that with an average between 7-8 minutes during the day, with our best time being around four minutes, and at night we average just less than 10 minutes, because each minute we shave off our response time is a minute gained for the patient.”
The medevac crew operates and lives slightly differently from your traditional unit.
“We typically live and work in the same area as our aircraft because we can get called anytime in a 24-hour period to respond to a medical emergency,” said Maj. Robert Anderson, commander for Charlie Company. “If we get called in the middle of the night, it is much easier for us to respond quickly if we live nearby than it would be if we lived with everybody else; where our people would have to run to the office causing us to possibly miss our 15 minute window.”
Because the soldiers of the medevac crew live and operate in such close quarters, unit cohesiveness is imperative, said 1st Sgt. Kris Sample, Charlie Company, 3-126th Aviation.
“Our unit operates like a family, a very close knit family,” Sample said. “We have our moments when the stress is high and we get cranky with each other; but, like any family, we are always there for each other when we need one another, and we love to have fun together whenever possible.”
When the 3-126th responds to a medical emergency, for them, it’s like treating an extended family member.
“We are all brothers and sisters in arms,” said Sgt. Cassandra Kennedy, flight medic for 4th Platoon, Charlie Company, 3-126th Aviation. “When I have to treat a soldier that has been injured in whatever type of incident, I treat them as I would my own family; with the best care that I can possibly provide.”
Kennedy said the care and treatment the flight medics are able to provide while in transit to the nearest treatment facility is far superior to what it used to be.
“We used to go by the ‘Golden Hour’ rule, where you had one hour to effectively save a person’s life, limb, or eyesight,” Kennedy said. “Now it is pushed in upwards of two hours because we are able to provide better care and treatment to the patient. But we always strive to make it within that Golden Hour.”
To get the patient to a treatment facility inside the Golden Hour timeframe, the pilots must be able to make it from their base to the patient and to the treatment facility in an expeditious manner.
“Once I hear ‘Medevac, medevac, medevac!’ come over the radio, I drop whatever I am doing, gear up and head out to the aircraft to start her up,” said Capt. Joseph Strassner, medical evacuation pilot for 4th Platoon, Charlie Company, 3-126th Aviation. “Once everybody is on board and ready to go, I’ll fly to either a HLZ (helicopter landing zone) or POI (point of injury) to pick up the patient. As soon as the patient is secured in the helicopter, we’re off to the best treatment facility for the wounds the patient has suffered. After that, we fly back to base. Mission complete.”