MEDEVAC unit completes relief in place
November 15, 2007
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The unit that has performed arguably the most difficult yet rewarding mission in Iraq is on its way home after 15 months.
The air medical evacuation Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, completed a transfer of authority Nov. 8 with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division at Camp Taji.
The Company C "Witchdoctors," based out of Fort Carson, Colo., flew 3,400 MEDEVAC missions and moved about 5,500 patients in need of care that ranged from routine to urgent, according to Reno, Nev., native Lt. Col. Christopher Joslin, commander of 2nd "Lobo" Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB.
"The motto of the MEDEVAC is 'So that others may live,' and it is no boast or overstatement that when they fly, Soldiers don't die," Joslin said. "They are the best of the best, fought and served valiantly in the main effort fight of Operation Iraqi Freedom, setting records in mission accomplishment that no other unit can come close to claiming."
The 84 Soldiers provided MEDEVAC support for the Baghdad area. Although the unit is assigned to the Fort Hood-based Lobo battalion, its current home base is Fort Carson, Colo. Prior to deploying to Iraq in 2006, the unit was called the 571st Medical Company (Air Ambulance).
The 1st ACB and 3rd Inf. Div. MEDEVAC companies conducted a nontraditional relief in place since the 3rd Inf. Div. unit had been in Iraq for several months conducting the MEDEVAC mission in a different area.
"They are assuming our battle space and extending their lines of coverage," said Corpus Christi, Texas, native Maj. Guy Gierhart, commander of Co. C, 2-227th General Support Aviation Battalion. "We transferred property and took some of their pilots on duty with us."
Additionally, the 3rd Inf. Div. had covered for the 1st Cav. Div. MEDEVAC unit earlier in the year when several of the latter's aircraft sustained battle damage and could not fly.
"We have been pulling MEDEVAC duty (in Iraq) for five months, and we picked up the mission for this area for a week previously," said Maj. Scott Prescott, commander of Co. C, 2-3 Aviation Regiment, based out of Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. "We worked with them during that time. Our pilots trained with their pilots to assume the mission then."
It was a long, difficult year for the 1st ACB MEDEVAC Soldiers.
"The extension hit us all pretty hard," said Gierhart, who performed the MEDEVAC mission on two other deployments in Iraq as well. "I think this deployment was harder because I was the commander this time."
The unit, which spent all of its days saving the lives of critically injured service members and civilians, lost one of its Soldiers in an indirect fire attack on Camp Taji.
"The most difficult part of the deployment and I think what we will all remember the most about the deployment was the loss of Sgt. William Brown," Gierhart said. "When you have to pick up one of your own (on a MEDEVAC mission), it's difficult."
Despite the difficult mission, Gierhart said he wouldn't trade places with anyone.
"I'm really proud to be part of this unit," he said. "All of the people that were part of this unit made it happen. The mission was difficult at times, but they always made it happen."
For Joslin, their departure is bittersweet.
"They are heroes - they deserve a hero's a welcome, a handshake and a thank you," Joslin said. "While I am so proud of them and so glad that they will be home for Thanksgiving, they've become part of my family, and I am going to miss them when they leave."