JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq - Recently, two Pacific Northwest-based Army National Guard units partnered in Iraq for medical evacuation training at the Air Force Theater Hospital here.

Soldiers from the Seattle based Washington Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry Regiment and Oregon Army National Guard's Charlie Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment from Salem, Ore., met far from their evergreen home stations in the sandy Iraqi desert to conduct the training.

Sgt. Brandon Names, a crew chief from Albany, Ore., called the training, "MEDEVAC 101." Names said the classes change and are tailored to the train based upon the unit's needs and requests. The training typically includes aircraft familiarization and operation, loading and unloading patients from the aircraft and landing zone/pick-up zone set-up and operations.

On this night, the 1st Bn., 161st Inf. Regt.'s Highlanders reviewed the 9-line MEDEVAC request, information that flight medics need to know to prepare for receiving patients while en-route to the LZ, how to prepare a patient for movement on the aircraft, and loading and unloading of patients on the aircraft.

"People get excited when a helicopter shows up," said Sgt. Jason Westlund, a flight medic from Corvalis, Ore., borrowing a phrase from his platoon sergeant. He said the training was important and helps the flight crews and Soldiers on the ground work better together.

He added, "On one mission, we landed and the crew chief hadn't even opened the door when the litter team had the patient at the aircraft."

Names said the familiarization training helps avoid that kind of confusion on the ground during actual missions.

Westland added that the training exposes Soldiers who don't normally work around aircraft with what to expect - rotor wash, blowing dust and a lot of noise.

Sgt. Merissa Merlin, a flight medic from Portland, Ore., said the better ground medics and other Soldiers understand how to work around the aircraft the quicker the patient is taken care of.

Names agreed and said working together before the mission "is better for the patient."

"Because of this training, we're more in sync with the flight medics and know how they like to see patients prepped," said Spc. Matt Moeser, a Spokane, Wash., medic from Headquarters and Headquarters Co., 1st Bn., 161st Inf., Regt.

"Our mission take us outside the wire and between forward operating bases, so aero medevac is a very real possibility," said Sgt. 1st Class Chad Bennett, the Highlander medical platoon sergeant from Rathdrum, Idaho, who coordinated the training.

Bennett, who attended some military courses with Co. C, 7th Bn., 158th Aviation's senior flight medic said, "It's important to train with assets we'll see in a combat zone and at home in the state area of operations."

Names agreed, saying, "There's a good chance we could end up working together when we're at home."

"There's a definite Northwest personality that we identify with and it feels like working with home," said Westlund.

That Northwest personality includes an affinity for well-made coffee. To help bring a bit of home to Iraq, the Oregon Soldiers built a 'Cascade Coffee' in their morale, welfare and recreation area.

Merlin, an instructor, said working with other Guard Soldiers from the Pacific Northwest made it "feel like we're not so far from home."

Soldiers from C Co, 7th Bn., 158th Aviation Regt., arrived here in May; as the 1st Bn., 161st Inf. Regt., will redeploy in a few weeks.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16