Operation Iraqi Freedom is slowly winding down for many U.S. units currently in theater as Operation New Dawn waits patiently for the reduction of forces across Iraq.

One aviation unit at Contingency Operating Base Adder, Iraq, winds down literally and figuratively as they prepare to redeploy to Michigan and New Hampshire.

Company C, 3rd Battalion, 238th Aviation Regiment (MEDEVAC) will be moving out of theater in the coming months after a quiet but successful year of medical evacuation and rescue missions across United States Division-South, which covers as far north as Contingency Operating Station Kalsu and as far south as Umm Qasr.

As the only National Guard MEDEVAC unit in theater, Co. C also supported some USD-Central operations.

Sgt. 1st Class Brian McKay, the Co. C facilities manager and a native of Somersworth, N.H., has been responsible for the improvements made on buildings the unit occupies on the north side of Ali Air Base, where pilots, crew and staff lived, worked and played for most of their time in country.

McKay is one of the most senior members of the unit, who remembers a time when UH-1 Bell "Huey" helicopters were the workhorses, instead of their current UH-60 Blackhawks. With this seniority, McKay has helped direct the various sections in the unit toward making life here more comfortable.

"The downsizing has been a big challenge," McKay said. "We were trying to keep certain assets so the unit coming to replace us can succeed."

Among the additions were a dining facility, workout area, and a full-sized "Galaga" arcade game in their MWR room.

Spc. Danielle Fester, one of the youngest Soldiers in the unit and native of Cassopolois, Mich., used this opportunity to soak up as much knowledge about her job as possible.

Fester, a communications specialist with Co. C, ensures the unit has communication with aircraft while they are on missions and helps receive, coordinate, launch and track 9-line MEDEVAC requests. Fester said she has embraced this important job, but in her downtime, she still manages to keep in touch with friends and Family and stay active.

"My most memorable moment was completing the 2010 Boston Marathon in Iraq," she said. "It was a challenge, but in the end it was a great accomplishment."

Despite that crowning achievement, the greatest impact she made while deployed was not an individual achievement. It was the transformation of the two units into a cohesive team.

"Half of the unit is from New Hampshire," she said, "but a lot of people in the unit have changed since we've been here and done a lot better than we have (before). It's been a great experience for a lot of us. The whole company has done a really good job."

Staff Sgt. Don Stover, a maintainer with Co. C from Counna, Mich., said the teamwork within the unit was key to mission success.

"What has really impressed me is how our two units, who had never seen each other before training and deploying together, have come together," Stover said. "It is not that any one individual or individuals have stood out, but how two states, with no prior experience of working together, have blended so well."

After a full year of working together to save lives in USD-S, all that waits for Co. C is a flight line with a C-130 Globemaster waiting to carry them home after a challenging deployment.

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