Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dustoff Crews Bring Mercy From Above

Originally uploaded by Sydney Weasel.
By Sgt. Eric Jensen 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Spc. Gary Scott stands on the sun-drenched flight line with three Blackhawk helicopters resting behind him. “What do you like most about your deployment?” he is asked. A voice bursts through the radio strapped to his waist. “Medevac, medevac, medevac,” it announces.

Scott smiles and says, “Well…the missions. I gotta go! The crew chief for the 159th Medical Company (Air Ambulance) bounds off to the aircraft with the rest of his flight crew to provide aid to people in need.

Soldiers of the 159th have been deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom for more than six months now. During that time, they have conducted 500 missions helping save the lives of U.S. service members, coalition soldiers and the Afghan people. The motto “Anyone, anywhere, anytime”, which can be read on the unit’s recreation room, explains the unit’s mindset.

1 comment:

Weasel said...

“We will go where we are called and accomplish our mission faithfully,” says Maj. Robert Howe, 159th commander. “There’s no different standard on any type of care we provide.”
Roughly 700 patients have been flown into medical facilities by 159th “DUSTOFF” crews. Thirty percent of those are locals who are injured from crossfire in combat. More than 50 percent of the evacuation missions are in support of the Afghan people. The unit attributes its success to working together. From the Soldiers in the operations center to the flight crews, everyone plays an important part in accomplishing the mission.
“I never thought I’d directly be affecting people’s lives, but I’ve seen it,” says Spc. Franklin Cornejo, flight operations specialist. “I’ve been to the patient ward and I’ve seen how the flight crews help and the way we help the crews.”
Operations personnel help the flight crews in a variety of different ways. They are responsible for processing the medevac requests that put the crews into action. They also coordinate approvals needed for the aircraft to leave on a mission.
Howe agrees. “If it wasn’t for that operations soldier giving us good information on the enemy, good information on the weather, we wouldn’t be able to execute our mission and we wouldn’t be able to get to that patient that needs our care.”
The 159th is familiar with working together. Half the company served a yearlong deployment in Iraq, ending in February of 2004. Soldiers have noted that there is a distinct difference between flying missions in Iraq and in Afghanistan. In particular, Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain makes it one of the most challenging aviation environments in the area.
“You can’t replicate this environment anywhere in the world. You just have to fly in it,” says Howe.
Aside from the rugged landscape, DUSTOFF crews identify other obstacles, such as weather and enemy activity, when taking to the air. The unit has come to expect that no mission is routine. In August of this year, a flight crew came under small-arms fire while rescuing an Afghan child. With the help of an escort helicopter, the gunman was subdued and the mission was completed. For the 159th, accomplishment of the mission means another life can be saved.
Captain Jason Davis, operations officer says, “Anytime we get to do our job we’re making a tangible impact on somebody’s life.”
Doing its job is just what the 159th loves to do for anyone, anywhere and anytime.