BASRA, Iraq - The mid-afternoon desert heat pierces the body armor of a downed Soldier in the middle of nowhere, injured from an improvised explosive device attack when the chopping blades of a medical evacuation helicopter closes in, providing a sense of hope.

"This is a drill," the tactical operations officer on battle watch duty repeated over loudspeakers announcing a simulated nine-line medical evacuation request.

Sailors deployed from naval units in Guam and Nevada comprise the 2515th Naval Air Ambulance Detachment-North and provide around-the-clock medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) coverage in southern Iraq and parts of Kuwait.

"As long as we maintain an alert status, it allows for other units to go out," said Lt. Chris Robinson, a native of Denver serving as the operations officer for 2515th NAAD-North. "If any sort of casualty happens, we're going to be there to take them to safety."

"Our primary mission is to save lives," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Steven Kelly, a native of Salcha, Alaska, serving as a hospital corpsman with the 2515th NAAD-North. "It could be the matter between life or death."

"If somebody gets an injury here that can't be treated locally," Kelly said. "We have to get them where they need to go and the best route of doing that is through MEDEVAC. That would be the fastest and the most efficient way."

The sailors appear almost modest about their lifesaving missions and attribute their confidence to the training and ground support they receive.

"If we have to go into a hot landing zone, we'll do our best to have ground forces suppress any enemies in the area," Robinson said. "We do our best to make it a clandestine maneuver into a hot LZ and get out quickly. We feel safe because of our training and the intelligence we receive when we go out."

"The patient is really the only thing that matters," Kelly said, "so getting to our patients as fast as we can, getting them off the ground, and to where they need to go is our only concern."

Kelly said he could not remember ever losing a patient while assigned to the 2515-th NAAD-North, but every patient remains in his thoughts.

"I can't tell you of any time the 2515th has lost a patient," Kelly said, "but you never forget any of the patients. Any time you get a call, you are always pumped and you are always heading out the door. Every last one of them sticks with you."

Although MEDEVAC coverage is their primary mission, the training and experience of these Sailors extend farther and include joint function missions.

"We're all trained in search and rescue," Robinson said. "Our sister squadron
2515th NAAD-South in Kuwait does most of the off-shore rescues and MEDEVACs from different ship platforms."

"Out of the 15,000 corpsmen in the Navy, there are less than a hundred who do this job, flying MEDEVACs and search and rescue," Kelly said. "We're augmented by the U.S. Air Force. We integrate very well with their pararescuemen, who are very knowledgeable and have definitely been helpful to the mission."

"Everyone here is a hero," Robinson said. "From the most junior enlisted to our officer in charge, everybody is extremely professional and takes their job very seriously. It's a very rewarding job being able to pick up someone that has been injured, come back home, get them back on the battlefield, back to work."

"Most importantly, we get those folks back to their Family."

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