TF Hammerhead MEDEVAC Soldiers fly to save lives
December 26, 2009
- TF Hammerhead Soldiers provide MEDEVAC support for USD-North
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq - Whether a Soldier survives a traumatic combat injury may depend on whether medical treatment is administered within the first hour from the time of the injury.
Military medical professionals refer to this core principle of emergency intervention as the "golden hour."
In United States Division-North, medical evacuation Soldiers of Company C, 3rd General Support Aviation Battalion, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, Task Force Hammerhead, deploy Forward Support Medical Teams (FSMTs) to ensure that injured Soldiers receive treatment and evacuation to a higher level of medical care within that critical time period.
According to Lt. Col. Gregory Baker, commander, 3-25th GSAB, Co. C is the primary MEDEVAC company in USD-North. Its life-saving personnel and assets are distributed among four forward locations including Contingency Operating Base Speicher, just outside of Tikrit, and Forward Operating Bases Warrior in Kirkuk, Sykes in Tall Afar, and Diamond Back near Mosul.
An FSMT operates from each location, primarily supporting local ground commanders who are partnered with a variety of Iraqi Security Forces.
"We've arranged MEDEVAC coverage so that no Soldier will be out of range of a medical facility by more than an hour," said Lt. Col. Baker. "That philosophy reflects our mandate to launch an aircraft within 15 minutes of receiving a [MEDEVAC call] and fly to an injured Soldier in order to deliver that person to a medical treatment facility in less than 60 minutes."
For Lt. Col. Baker, his unit's operational capability is simply part of the 3-25th GSAB's contract with the Soldiers working throughout USD-North.
"A Soldier who is asked to risk his life on a [route-clearance] mission or key leader engagement has in the back of his mind [a certain comfort and reasonable expectation] that if something happens MEDEVAC will be there to provide care and to transport that Soldier as quickly as possible."
The COB Speicher FSMT's unique mission requires the teams to rotate through 24-hour shifts, much like a civilian fire station. At any time, the lead FSMT can be awakened and expected to fly a mission. They sleep and eat near their aircraft. Their equipment and weapons are staged, and they conduct all mission planning and aircraft preparation in advance. The reason is simple.
"We have no room for error," said Lt. Col. Baker. "Each FSMT must be ready to go at a moment's notice. If we're not ready to fly, [someone may lose their life]. That would be an absolute catastrophe; we cannot and we will not let that happen."
Major Jake Dlugosz is the company's senior leader charged to ensure Co. C's readiness -- all the time. The native of Olean, N.Y., and veteran of three combat tours in Iraq, is the company commander and one of several MEDEVAC pilots.
According to Maj. Dlugosz, his company has flown more than 1,100 miles and conducted more than 100 missions during their first 90 days in Iraq. The missions have ranged from transporting drugs needed at a clinic to moving Soldiers with critical combat injuries. "Of the Soldiers transported, about 40 percent of the cases involved combat related incidents, and the remainder have been non-combat [accidents and incidents]," said Maj. Dlugosz.
Major Dlugosz's unit is comprised of a small administrative element, instructor pilots, maintenance pilots, non-rated aviators, tactical operations officers, crew chiefs and flight medics, among others. Dlugosz attributes his unit's success to the quality of his Soldiers. Two of those Soldiers are Spc. Brian Kelley and Sgt. Zachary Marconett.
Sergeant Marconett is a flight medic, from Belton, Mo., and he is on his third combat tour to Iraq. Specialist Kelley, a Boston, Mass., native, is a UH-60 Blackhawk mechanic and crew chief. He's responsible for helping maintain the aircraft, conducting routine, daily maintenance in addition to working as a member of the flight crew with all of its attendant flight responsibilities. Both love their jobs.
"I'll do this job as long as the Army will allow me," said Sgt. Marconett. "I truly want to be the guy that is the best part of someone's worst moment," he said. "I know that when an injured Soldier sees that red cross on the helicopter, they know that they're going to make it. That's why I do what I do."
"I love this unit," agreed Spc. Kelley. "MEDEVAC is all about helping people. I know that when I'm [awakened] at 2:30 a.m. in the morning, it's because a Soldier is hurt and needs evacuation," he said. "I get up because I want that Soldier to make it home safe. When you work for those reasons, you can wake me up any time."