Story by 1st Lt. Kerri Brantley, 35th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
CAMP BUEHRING, KUWAIT - The focus of the mission in Kuwait is partnerships with the friends of the region while the 35th Combat Aviation Brigade is deployed here. However there is also a state-to-state partnership being fostered in the medical evacuation company.
Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 126th Aviation Regiment (medevac) is comprised of Forward Support Medical Teams from both Maine and Oregon National Guard's, these states were two of the last few wholly organic medevac units within a given state. The two units did not make the merge into one company until they met at Fort Hood, Texas, during pre-mobilization training and validation. From past deployments, the company commander, Maj. Mark Stevens, from Saco, Maine, has been told about all the issues of working side-by-side with different states.
“We all come from different states, different cultures, one of my biggest concern was our people wouldn’t get along,” said Stevens.
A significant concern of the commander was whether the unit would come together as a team or be two-separate entities; however that is not at all what has happened with this group.
“This has been an extremely easy transition, personalities, training, standards of operations, all lined up,” said Stevens. “They were just like us, Oregon fit right in. This was great that it happened to be so smooth, because this is a long-term partnership. This deployment is the foundation and it was a good start.”
The only disagreement the members from both states have had is the correct pronunciation of Oregon.
“As commander, that has made my job easier, having good Soldiers from both states,” said Stevens.
The commander was not the only one who feared that the unit would not come together as a team, 1st Lt. Samantha Franklin, of Eugene, Ore., is the assistant platoon leader and had similar apprehensions.
“I thought we would be excluded from missions, but that was falsity. There has never been and ‘us and them’ mentality,” said Franklin. “Once we all got together at Fort Hood, leadership has worked hard to ensure there were no lines drawn.”
The unit has faced some struggles together and endured a loss of one of their Soldiers, but in that time of despair the unit stood together. When one was struggling with the loss, another Soldier would be that stronghold.
“The ability for the unit to come together, even in the hard times, just affirmed we are a cohesive team, we know we can lean on one another,” said Franklin. “We also mix the aircrews together, so there is never all Maine or all Oregon personnel on a flight. This allows us to learn from one another all the time.”
The company is the only medevac asset in the 35th CAB, with the primary mission to be the air ambulance for this region. However, when not conducting medical evacuations for troops here, they are training other units for what they have coined as Medevac 101. To date, the company has educated almost 900 people in medevac training.
Medevac 101 teaches evacuation protocols; how to call in the Army’s 9-Line medevac request, how to prepare the landing zone, helicopter safety, and more. Flight medics are the primary instructors for the training.
“The training has multiple levels starting with the basic terminology to simulating a live transport while the helicopter is powered up with the blades running,” said Sgt. Erica Yates.
Back home, in Maine, Yates is a nurse; she is new to aviation but likes teaching the Combat Lifesaver course and Medevac 101.
“The thing I appreciate most is for everyone to have basic safety and understanding of how to operate around the helicopter,” Yates said. “If they had to do this for real, they will know how to do it safely.”
Also playing a vital role in the training is another instructor, Spc. Matthew Maloney, from Oregon. He is also new to aviation, but an experienced combat medic and previously deployed to Iraq with an infantry unit. He was recently hero of the week for his eagerness to progress as a flight medic; extremely active in training the forces, having a great capacity to learn and retain knowledge, which is vital to being a successful flight medic.
“Combining flight crews, for training and real-world evacuations has allowed individuals to come together as a team, we all came here for the same purpose,” said Maloney. “Being able to help someone in a critical situation and train others to help is a very rewarding experience.”
Capt. William Bradbury, from Maine, led a medevac group in the partnership with Jordan, in case a real-world situation happened, they would be there to help. The unit took the opportunity to conduct training flights while there as well.
“The terrain is different in Jordan and it was good to get that experience,” said Bradbury. “We integrated flight crews, so that everyone felt like a part of the whole and no one feels like an outsider.”
Long-lasting friendships have developed over the course of this deployment.
“We just clicked, our values were very similar, it’s like we found our long-lost brothers and sisters,” said Bradbury. “I will definitely stay in contact via Facebook and email. It would be really rewarding to do a Yellow Ribbon event together after the deployment.”
Yellow Ribbon is a Guard and Reserve program that assists members who have served in combat and experienced the stress of war. Once they return to communities and jobs scattered across the nation and to friends and family who may not grasp the depth of their experience, Charlie Company would like the chance to be able to support one another once they are home.
“It would be great to see where they live and for us to get the chance to show them around our home and meet each other’s families,” said Bradbury. “It may or may not happen, but it would be an opportunity, which we would be forever grateful.”
The unit continues to support partnerships in this region that promote stability and security, as they also foster this state-to-state medevac partnership.
“We have set the baseline for a long-term partnership, along with mission success and established lifelong friendships; it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Stevens.
The unit is due home early spring 2013.