News: CAB Dustoff Company continues to support the force
CAMP TAJI, Iraq " The entire mission begins with a firm knock on the door. The transcription that follows signifies the mission's urgency " priority mission to move a patient to the 10th Combat Area Support Hospital. Upon receiving those orders, a flight crew assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, swings into action.
The unit is solely responsible for the movement of Coalition Forces and civilians between medical treatment facilities in the Baghdad area. Its missions may include priority medical movements, which include any non life-threatening injury or roadside medical evacuations, which are a necessity when Soldiers are injured by improvised-explosive devices, often in remote locations.
"Our overall mission is to facilitate the safest and most rapid evacuation of casualties from the battlefield and that includes all casualties, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, enemy prisoners of war and non-United States military," explained Capt. Chris Chung, operations officer, Co. C. "We evacuate civilians as well."
Chung said that the missions his unit carries out are either urgent or priority, based on the seriousness of the request and the condition of the patient.
The missions are forward operating base to forward operating base, which is from a secure area to another secure area, or the more dangerous, point-of-entry pickup. During FOB-to-FOB transfers, patients are picked up to be transferred to a higher medical treatment facility. The point-of-entry pickup includes roadside evacuations because of IED strikes or vehicle rollovers.
"Whatever happens outside the FOB, we categorize it as a point-of-entry pickup," Chung said.
To date, the unit has flown more than 3,500 patients throughout the Baghdad airspace. Their mission began back in November 2005, when the company supported the 3rd Infantry Division.
According to pilot-in-command Chief Warrant Officer 2 Toby Blackmon, every mission flown varies in someway from the previous. He said he has found some to be quite interesting.
"There have been several instances and every mission you do is its own mission," he said. "Depending upon where it is, we've had some mission's right in downtown Baghdad, where you have to come down between light poles and wires."
He pointed out that the landing was a safe distance from the aircraft's rotor system, but added that setting the aircraft down on a road in the center of the city, despite security being in place, with all the high buildings, he still has the feeling of being insecure.
Blackmon pointed out that teamwork was the key to being successful in mission such as that one.
"You just have to trust your mates and crew chiefs to keep the aircraft clear as much as they possibly can, and trust your gut to do the best job you can," he said. "Getting the patient on board the aircraft is what it's all about."
Co. C is in the midst of its third deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The unit deployed during OIF I and II as the 507th Medical Company, before being reassigned to the CAB and deploying as part of the brigade's General Support Aviation Battalion. Some Soldiers in the unit have spent no longer than eight months at Fort Hood between deployments.
Despite the unit's high optempo, Chung said morale remains high
because the Soldiers realize the importance of their job here.
"The morale in the company is high," he explained. "About 20 percent of the company is here for their third tour. We were here for OIF I, II and now OIF 05-07. About 50 percent is back for their second tour, after serving initially in OIF II. But no one flaunts that around. We all get together and teach the younger guys. There are always things to learn, no matter how many times you've been over here.
"I think that because we keep that attitude, we are able to maintain a level of camaraderie that makes us a great company," Chung added. "Our morale remains very high because everybody takes pride in the mission, which is the most important thing here."
Teamwork, pride and ownership of the mission are what allow the MEDEVAC Soldiers to stand tall throughout the rigors of multiple deployments. Both Chung and Blackmon agree that it comes from crew coordination and unselfishness on the part of each crewmember.
"Crew coordination is making sure that everyone knows what their job is inside the aircraft," Chung explained. "I think it helps out that everybody's unselfish. They know that when we're flying, we've got three other guys we've got to take care of, in addition to the patient that we're picking up. So, as pilots-in-command, it is our job to ensure that we bring everybody back."
Blackmon said he agreed with Chung, but added each crewmember plays a vital part in accomplishing each mission.
"I think that's correct, but I also think we work well because you have a lot of individual training, where one trains on their specific job, but once we're all together in that aircraft, for us to run a mission, there are four people who are required to be on that aircraft. They are the pilot-in-command, the pilot, the medic and the crew chief. When you put all four of them together, each one of them is the most qualified on that aircraft for their position.
"If you have one person missing from that group, the others cannot work together," he added. "There is a lot of crew coordination and understanding that everybody on that crew must work together."
The more than 80 Soldiers of Dustoff Company are operating from Camp Taji, which is north of Baghdad, and at FOB Falcon, which controls MEDEVAC operations in the area south of the city. Chung pointed out that this is the same operation the unit ran while supporting the 3rd Inf. Div.
The unit will be among the CAB's first to redeploy back to Fort Hood in the upcoming months, but Chung and Blackmon both refuse to look that far.
"It's a short amount of time, but we still have a lot to do," Chung said. "A whole lot to do," Blackmon added.